GOALS, GOALS, AND MORE GOALS: MISSED THE MIDWEEK CHAMPIONSHIP MADNESS? READ THIS!
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Supporters returned to a handful of EFL grounds in midweek, with Wycombe and Luton the lucky clubs that were able to welcome back fans for a first taste of Championship football since March.
The 1,000 fans who turned out at Kenilworth Road witnessed a convincing win over league leaders Norwich, whilst Preston upset the odds to beat Bournemouth and Brentford showed signs they are finding some form in a comfortable victory at Rotherham.
Here is the best of the action:
Luton Town 3-1 Norwich City
The supporters who won a ballot to attend Luton’s first game in front of fans since March 7th were treated to a frenetic first half that helped the Hatters to a first home win since the start of October.
The home side took the lead on the 15-minute mark when George Moncur cut in from the left and fired a shot beyond Michael McGovern in the Norwich goal.
The lead only lasted for a matter of minutes though, as Emi Buendia was on hand to tuck home a penalty after Luton ‘keeper Simon Sluga had brought down Przemyslaw Placheta in the area.
Luton restored their lead almost as quickly as they had lost it, with captain Matty Pearson heading home a Rhys Norrington-Davies free-kick to make it three goals in the space of seven first half minutes.
Norwich were still missing a host of attacking players through injury and it showed as they rarely managed to test Sluga from open play.
The award of Norwich’s penalty was slightly fortunate as Placheta flung himself to the ground under the slightest contact, but they were the ones left feeling aggrieved moments into the second half.
Defender Grant Hanley was adjudged to have handled the ball in his own box after falling to the ground following a tussle with Luton forward James Collins.
Collins stepped up to blast home the penalty to give his side a commanding lead that they would not relinquish.
Despite the defeat signaling the end of Norwich’s 11 game unbeaten run, Daniel Farke will no doubt still be pleased that his side still sit top of the Championship table considering how many players are currently on the injury list.
The roar that greeted Moncur’s wonderful opener for Luton was a great moment for both the Hatters and football in general as it points towards a not too distant future where supporters are back in football grounds permanently.
This outstanding result for Nathan Jones’ side moves them up to 11th.
AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Preston North End
A miraculous goal from Scott Sinclair helped Preston put an end to their poor recent form by clinging on for victory at Bournemouth.
Sinclair picked the ball up on the halfway line before catching out Asmir Begovic with a lofted effort from all of 40 yards to give Alex Neil’s side a 2-0 lead five minutes into the second half.
Tom Barkhuizen had already put North End a goal to the good in the opening 45 minutes when he got on the end of a Daniel Johnson cross to finish a well-executed counter-attack.
Having won only two of their previous seven games, it was fair to say Preston were in dreamland when defender Patrick Bauer slid home a third goal midway through the second half to seemingly end the game as a contest.
However, Bournemouth have made a habit of fighting back from behind in recent weeks and Junior Stanislas gave them hope of getting back into this one with a beautiful, curling free-kick from the edge of the box.
Sam Surridge headed home his first goal of the season to set up a grandstand finish in the final five minutes, but it was Preston’s night and they held on for a deserved three points.
This victory continues Preston’s good away form, but it was more remarkable for the fact that they outplayed the side that sat second in the Championship at kick-off for long spells, showing that they are a match for anyone in the division on their day.
The win means they move up to 15th.
Jason Tindall will be disappointed that Bournemouth’s unbeaten home record has come to end, but will likely be more concerned that his side have shown a capacity to throw in some unconvincing performances, as good as their often brilliant attacking play is.
Other results mean they remain second despite the defeat.
Middlesbrough 2-1 Swansea City
A Duncan Watmore double helped Middlesbrough past Swansea in a tight game between two of the early season play-off hopefuls.
Neil Warnock’s side were happy to cede possession to the Swans and try their luck on the counter-attack, and it worked nicely with Watmore finishing quick breakaways in both halves to continue Boro’s strong home form.
The first came after Swansea’s Connor Roberts was robbed of possession on the halfway line and Watmore was released to fire home a deflected strike from the edge of the box.
The former Sunderland man looks to have found an ideal home on Teeside after several years of injury problems, and he was left in acres of space to double Middlesbrough’s lead early in the second period after Paddy McNair had done well to win back possession and release the forward.
Swansea had enough chances to take something from the game but lacked a clinical edge up front.
Substitute Yan Dhanda did give them hope of an unlikely comeback when he scored a deflected strike of his own with little over 10 minutes left to play.
But despite late pressure from the away side, Warnock’s men held on for what could be an important victory in the play-off race come the end of the season.
After giving away sloppy goals in defeat at Huddersfield at the weekend, Boro looked back to their defensively solid best in this one.
Their strong back-line looks to be the key to maintaining the good form they have shown so far this season, as the league’s joint-best defensive record has helped them to within three points of the automatic promotion places.
The congested nature of the table means that Middlesbrough are still 10th despite their win.
It was an underwhelming evening for Steve Cooper’s side as they appeared to play into Boro’s hand's thanks to their sloppiness in possession and vulnerability to counter-attacks.
The defeat sees Swansea drop out of the play-off places into seventh.
Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Bristol City
Bristol City came from behind to snatch a fortunate victory at QPR that sees them outside the automatic promotion spots on goal difference alone.
Break-away goals either side of half-time from Nakhi Wells and Adam Nagy secured the win for Dean Holden’s side despite the Robins having to endure long spells of pressure from the home team.
QPR took the lead early on when defender Rob Dickie arrived at the far post to head a Joe Willock cross into the back of the Bristol City net.
Rangers had a number of opportunities to extend their lead before Wells ghosted into the six-yard box to get on the end of Callum O’Dowda’s cutback on the verge of half-time.
More good work from O’Dowda turned the game on its head five minutes into the second half, as he won the ball back from Dickie before driving down the left-wing and his pull-back eventually fell to the feet of Hungarian international Nagy and he finished calmly.
Macauley Bonne and Bright Osayi-Samuel both missed glorious chances to equalise for the home side, and Wells hit the post from a free-kick from a rare opportunity for the Robins to extend their lead in the closing stages.
QPR’s profligacy in attack and a tendency to give away soft goals is becoming the theme of their season, they could well find themselves in a relegation battle if they don’t start taking their chances.
They are now 17th in the Championship.
Whilst many are still sceptical of Bristol City’s chances of maintaining a promotion push, the win at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium was a great show of perseverance and character after an underwhelming performance in defeat at Reading on Saturday.
Despite being level on points with second place Bournemouth, City are in fifth and only a point above seventh-placed Swansea as the Championship continues to be impossible to call.
Rotherham United 0-2 Brentford
Marcus Forss made the most of his first Championship start of the season by scoring the second-half opener at the New York Stadium on the night that Brentford moved back into the play-off places.
Forss was on hand to coolly place a finish beyond Rotherham ‘keeper Jamal Blackman after strike partner Ivan Toney had cut the ball back to him in the penalty area.
Brentford had dominated possession for long spells up to that point, but had relied on David Raya in goal to deny Matt Crooks in the first half to remain on level terms.
Once Forss had scored, the game began to open up as the Millers searched for an equaliser.
It was the Bees who took advantage though, as substitute Sergi Canos broke into acres of space in the Rotherham half before he was brought down by Mikel Miller in the box.
Miller was shown a second yellow before Toney stepped up to place his penalty into the top corner of Blackman’s goal to make it 13 goals for the season already.
This was perhaps a game too far for Paul Warne’s side as they found it hard to play with the same intensity that secured them a draw against Bournemouth at the weekend.
The loss sees them drop to 20th, just three points above the relegation zone.
Brentford are now on an eight-game unbeaten run as they seem to be finding form after an underwhelming start to the campaign.
This is so often the case for Brentford due to the turnover of players they experience every summer, but sixth place is a promising position to begin a promotion charge from.