Back to back wins catapulted the R`s into the top half of the Championship once more. Here`s how the other teams got on this week.
TUESDAY 11TH MARCH
Barnsley 4-1 Ipswich Town
Jim Magilton was left bemoaning poor finishing and poor defending for his sides crushing defeat at Oakwell. The Tractor Boys took the lead when Velice Sumulikoski`s parried effort fell nicely for Pablo Counago, with the Spaniard making no mistake from close range. An excellent drive from Brian Howard brought the F.A. Cup giantkillers level, and they pulled themselves infront with an excellent header from John Macken. Magilton had every right to bemoan his side, as they hit the bar twice when well placed and the Tykes took full advantage. Jamal Campbell-Ryce was sent sprawling in the area by the aforementioned Sumulikoski and David Wright slotted home the spot kick, meaning Barnsley have only lost twice at home, once this year.
Bristol City 0-0 Watford
City`s second successive goalless draw ensured a stalemate at Ashton Gate. And it was the hosts that looked most threatening infront of goal in this promotion six pointer in Bristol. Marvin Elliot forced Richard Lee into two good saves as City looked to push home the advantage. But disaster nearly struck for the home side when Michael McIndoe brought down Tommy Smith from behind in the area to hand the visitors a penalty. The usually reliable Darius Henderson stepped up and had his penalty turned away by the inspired Adriano Basso. The Hornets also went close at the end when John-Joe O`Toole failed to head home following a Danny Shittu cross. The points were shared in a tie no team could afford to lose.
Burnley 1-0 Charlton Athletic
The Clarets made it four games undefeated at home dispatching of playoff rivals Charlton. In a relatively even game John Harley was proving himself an able outlet, delivering a number of testing crosses for the Charlton rearguard. The visitors were restricted to half chances from Ambrose, Sodje and the on loan striker Leroy Lita, but the winner could have graced a game at any level. Robbie Blake slipped through mercurial winger Wade Elliot, and his left-footed thunderbolt flew into the top right hand corner to hand the Clarets a 1-0 win, in a bitter blow to Charlton`s ambitions.
Colchester United 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday came from behind to haul themselves out of the relegation zone, and put surely what will be the crucial nail in the United relegation coffin. The U`s took the lead when prolific striker Kevin Lisbie, who has definitely proven his credentials at Championship level, latched onto long-term servant Karl Duguid`s pass to slot past Lee Grant from close range. That was as good as it got for the Essex side who then succumbed to two goals, first through Deon Burton. A well taken set piece by Graham Kavanagh got the better of the U`s backline and Owls favourite Burton was on hand to nod home. They doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time when Sean McAllister played the ball through to the pacey Wade Small, the wingers finish was emphatic as Wednesday condemned United to stare at their fate.
Norwich City 0-1 Stoke City
Stoke continued their pursuit of Premier League football by inflicting Norwich`s second loss at home this year, but nevertheless second home defeat in succession. It was Mamady Sidibe who inflicted the crucial blow for the Potters. A trademark long throw in by Rory Delap was met on the front post by the onrushing Sidibe and his flicked header flew over David Marshall and into the back of the net; a signature Stoke goal. Jamie Cureton had the best chance for the Canaries, somehow bundling the ball wide from close range, when being well placed to net a vital goal. The Potters march on, but the Canaries look down once again.
Preston North End 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
The Lilywhites came from behind to claim a priceless three points at home to Wolves, and their third victory in a row. The deadlock was broken as Andy Keogh struck an effort at the second attempt past keeper Andy Lonerghan, the striker gathered the ricochet off Mauwene, to put the ball into the bottom right hand corner. A clumsy challenge from Jody Craddock on Chris Brown in the area gave PNE the chance to equalise, and Callum Davidson smashed home the penalty to level the game. Then from fortune to the sublime; Simon Whaley showed his class to win the game for the Lilywhites by turning sharply on the edge of the area and firing home past Wayne Hennessey from 14 yards, a goal of real class to shoot Preston up the table.
Scunthorpe United 1-0 Plymouth Argyle
The Iron claimed a crucial three points in their hunt for survival with a narrow win over playoff chasing Plymouth. A solitary goal was enough to settle the encounter at Glanford Park, and it was a goal courtesy of Ian Morris. The forward latched onto a clever ball by Geoff Horsfield from the channel, and his shot deflected into the back of the net. Plymouth had goalkeeper Luke McCormick sent off for deliberate handball on 70 minutes but it made no further impact on the goalscoring, with Greens boss Paul Sturrock of the belief it actually improved his side.
Sheffield United 2-1 Coventry City
United compounded the misery of Sky Blues fans by inflicting another away defeat, meaning Chris Coleman`s side are now eight games without a win on the road. The Blades got off to a good start when Billy Sharp nodded home a cross from on-loan winger Dave Cotterill. That was Sharp`s first league goal for United after returning on a free in the summer. The referee then handed the Blades a chance to double their lead from the spot when Stephen Hughes fouled Sharp in the area, and Gary Speed stepped up to the plate, his first effort was saved by Andy Marshall, but Speed followed up to finish right footed. The official, Mr. Kettle, wasn`t finished there however, he as Chris Coleman stated in his post match press conference, looked to even it up, and did so handing the Sky Blues a spot kick for Mifsud`s tussle with Chris Morgan. Elliot Ward made no mistake, slamming the ball past the reach of Paddy Kenny.
Southampton 1-0 Leicester City
The Saints ended a run of 11games without a win and picked up their first midweek win of the season in dispatching of Ian Holloway`s Leicester City, in Nigel Pearson`s first win in charge. The Fox`s inability to capitalise infront of goal was once again exploited, as Steve Howard missed a golden opportunity and a game of little substance remained deadlocked going into the 75th minute. The deadlock however was broken; Gareth McCauley made a hash of clearing Mario Licka`s cross, by diverting the ball into the path of the prolific Stern John, the Trinidad and Tobago international, stabbed the ball home from 10 yards to hand him his 16th goal of the campaign, and Nigel Pearson`s first taste of victory in red and white.
WEDNESDAY 12TH MARCH
Cardiff City 1-0 Hull City
Clinical finishing and use of possession was the order of the day at Ninian Park. The Tigers failed to capitalise on the grip they held of the game as the F.A. Cup semi-finalists surged to victory with only 3 shots on target and 43% possession. By Hull manager Phil Brown`s own admission it was a soft goal to concede and it came courtesy of Steven McPhail in the first minute of the match. A hopeful high ball was launched into the Hull box in the early exchanged of the game and McPhail was on hand to volley home past Boaz Myhill off the underside of the bar, for all of the Tigers second half persistence one goal was all the game had in it.
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Crystal Palace
West Brom dropped home points against playoff chasers Crystal Palace, but it started ever so brightly for the Baggies who took the lead through Kevin Phillips, it owed much to the enterprise of Paul Robinson down the left, when his surging run and scything through ball found Phillips in enough space to lift the ball over the onrushing Speroni to hand Albion the lead. It was the 34 year olds 200th career league goal and 20th of the season. Palace continued to plug away but smothering the midfield and started to create chances of their own in the second period and were rewarded when Scrowcroft`s downward header in the box was tucked home by Victor Moses, for his first in senior colours. The spoils were shared at the Hawthornes.
SATURDAY 15TH MARCH
Blackpool 0-0 Preston North End
After three successive wins Preston had to make do with a point at Bloomfield Road, as both them and Blackpool shared the spoils in an evenly contested Lancashire derby. Andy Lonerghan was in good form to deny and excellent drive from Gary Taylor-Fletcher. But in a game of very few chances, Neil Mellor had the pick of the bunch for the visitors, firing wide from close range, to ensure this game ended in a stalemate, and goalless.
Bristol City 1-2 Plymouth Argyle
Rab Douglas made his debut for the Greens between the sticks, and saw a lot of the ball early on without actually being given any chances to save, Bristol City claimed two penalty appeals, the latter for a handball by Marcel Seip looking their most promising appeal. Douglas then saved well at his near post from Darren Byfield. Rory Fallon gave the Greens the lead slightly against the run of play when a Gary Teale cross was converted by the onrushing Australian into the bottom corner. Gary Teale was in the thick of the action once again when his corner found its way to Rory Fallon once more and the striker showed good instinct to tap past Adriano Basso. The Robins consolation came courtesy of the penalty spot, Jermaine Easter was correctly adjudged to have hand-balled and Lee Trundle slotted home the penalty low and left to give City hope, but not enough as City are now 4 games without a win.
Burnley 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves brought an end to Burnley`s home unbeaten record in 2008 with three goals. The first from Nigerian, Seyi Olofinjana when he latched onto a ball from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to finish the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Michael Gray then capitalised on a poor backpass from Clarke Carlisle, when blocked a clearance from Gabor Kiraly into the back of the net, calamitous defending from Burnley. Ebanks-Blake hit his 17th goal of the season in somewhat fortuitous circumstances; the fiercely struck effort squirmed under the body of the aforementioned Kiraly. Burnley to their credit kept plugging away and got a consolation goal through Ade Akinbiyi when the striker slotted home at the second attempt from a rebound.
Colchester United 1-1 Cardiff City
Paul Parry gave Cardiff the lead against rock-bottom Colchester when he cut inside from the right before unleashing a quite sublime curling effort into the top left hand corner, a goal fit to win any game. Referee Mr. Wright sent off Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink for a late challenge on Dean Gerken, the decision was extremely harsh on the Dutchman who clearly felt the ball was there to be won. This was a turning point in the game and Colchester got themselves back in it when Johnnie Jackson matched Paul Parry`s effort with a pearler of his own. Following a Karl Duguid cross, the ex-Tottenham midfielder weighed up his options before leaning back and lashing a right footed effort into the top left hand corner to hand United a point, it matters little however as Colchester look in deep trouble rooted to the bottom.
Coventry City 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday
It was yet another stalemate at the Ricoh Arena and worrying statistics for Coventry with only 1 win in 6 for 21st placed Sky Blues. It was indeed a tale of two goalkeepers, Kasper Schmeichel, recently signed on loan from Manchester City did well to deny Graham Kavanagh from close range in the early stages of the game, and Lee Grant twice denied Mifsud in good positions, as a point was no real good to either side, as they both continue to teeter on the brink of the Championship trap door.
Crystal Palace 2-0 Barnsley
Crystal Palace are coming into form at just the right time in the Championship with only 1 defeat in their last 7 games, and they are now 1 point off a playoff place currently residing in 7th. Tom Soares opened the scoring for the Eagles when his excellent direct run was capped off with a marvellous finish into the bottom left hand corner, giving Luke Steele no chance. James Scowcroft turned and shot in the area to give Palace an unassailable 2 goal advantage, it was the strikers 100th league goal that wrapped up a comfortable win for the Eagles.
Hull City 5-0 Southampton
Thumping performance from the Tigers, as they majestically rose to 5th, with 5 goals. Frazier Campbell scored the first of them, chasing onto a long ball from Wayne Brown before burying the ball past Michael Poke. Some criminal defending ensued and the fog descended over the KC Stadium, Henrik Pedersen was on hand to take advantage of such poor defending to lash the ball home for 2. Hull scored their second in two minutes when Michael Turner latched onto a Dean Marney free kick to take advantage of more ponderous defending to not home. Dean Marney hit a rasping drive into the bottom left hand corner to make it four and it was getting embarrassing for the Saints. The day was capped off perfectly for the Tigers when Bryan Hughes was left totally unmarked in injury time to give his side a 5th. That was Hull`s 4th win in 6, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Ipswich Town 2-0 Charlton Athletic
Charlton`s promotion run has hit the buffers after only 1 win in 8 games. Their misery was compounded early on when a cross shot from Owen Garven looped over Nicky Weaver and in off the post to hand Ipswich a much needed lead and confidence boost. They had their second in the second period when the Charlton rearguard failed to clear a corner and substitute Danny Haynes hit a rasping volley from the edge of the area into the back of the net to seal the win for the Tractor Boys who move up to 8th.
Sheffield United 2-0 Norwich City
Norwich have now suffered three defeats on the spin without scoring, very much brining to an end Glenn Roeder`s honeymoon period at Carrow Road. They came undone in this game when Billy Sharp scored his 2nd goal in two games for the Blades, and second in his Sheffield United career. This time he was able to react fastest from a Dave Cotterill cross to poke home the opener at Bramall Lane. The second came within two minutes, David Carney`s well placed corner found Matthew Kilgallon lurking in the penalty area and his well-placed header beat Marshall and had Norwich well beaten in sum.
Watford 0-0 Stoke City
It was a 6th consecutive draw that took the Hornets top of the league, but it was a game that wasn`t without controversy. A friend of both Watford and QPR in the past Rob Styes opted to send off former Potter John Eustace when he made minimal contact with Andy Griffin. Griffin was then adjudged rather harshly to have brought down John-Joe O`Toole in the penalty area, and this gave the Hornets a chance to steal the win. Darius Henderson stepped up and missed his second spot kick in a week, well saved by Carlo Nash to his right. Watford climb to top in fortuitous circumstances.
West Bromwich Albion 1-4 Leicester City
Ian Holloway bounced back from criticism in style, handing out a thrashing to promotion challengers West Bromwich Albion. Robert Koren put West Brom infront when he lashed a 30 yard drive past the keeper with the aid of a deflection for his ninth goal of the season. The came arguably the turning point of the game, Richard Stearman was fouled by a late two footed lunge from Luke Moore, and the referee had no qualms in issuing a straight red card. Leicester drew level through Gareth McCauley, who made amends for his error against Southampton with the equaliser, a well headed goal from Joe Mattock`s left footed cross. The Fox`s were then infront through January signing Steve Howard, he put the ball away low and right from the penalty spot following a foul by Jonathan Greening on Lee Hendrie. Howard had his second of the encounter when he poked home a second from an incisive pass from Hendrie. The hatrick was completed when Barry Hayles laid in that man again, Howard for the 5th hatrick of his career, the striker turned and thumped the ball past Dean Kiely.
Championship Week In Review
Back to back wins catapulted the R`s into the top half of the Championship once more. Here`s how the other teams got on this week.