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Matchday 23: Review

Find out how all of the fixtures unfolded during another action-packed weekend in the EFL...

22 December 2018

Leeds United, Portsmouth and Lincoln City will sit top of the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two this Christmas, after what was another enthralling weekend of EFL action.

Leeds United went back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship in dramatic fashion as they staged a remarkable comeback to win 3-2 at Villa Park. Leeds were 2-0 down at half-time but three second half goals from Jack Clarke, Pontus Jansson and then an injury time winner from Kemar Roofe, wrapped up the win to send the Leeds fans in to raptures. 

Villa had started the game superbly and found themselves 2-0 to the good inside 17 minutes as Tammy Abraham notched his 13th of the season and Conor Hourihane curled in a beautiful 20-yard strike to double their lead. But Leeds' attacking force in the second half proved hot for them to handle and it's the Yorkshire club who will spend Christmas top of the pile. 

On Saturday, Norwich City had gone top overnight. Daniel Farke's men had to be patient in their match against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. The breakthrough finally arrived four minutes from time and it came from a familiar source, as Teemu Pukki tapped home his 13th league goal of 2018/19 to extend the Canaries' unbeaten away run to 10 league games for the first time since August 2015.

West Bromwich Albion kept up the heat on the top two, winning in style, with Dwight Gayle's hat-trick helping them on their way to a 4-0 rout at Rotherham, a result which means the Baggies have already scored 50 goals in the league this season. Defeat for Rotherham was just their second on home soil in 12 Sky Bet Championship matches.

Things weren't quite so easy for fellow challengers Middlesbrough, who left it until the 77th minute to secure victory at Reading, thanks to George Friend's first goal in four-and-a-half months. Reading had more than matched their opponents until that point, but now find themselves outside of the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

Elsewhere, managerless Sheffield Wednesday began life after Jos Luhuaky with a vital 1-0 victory over 10-man Preston North End at Hillsborough, courtesy of Michael Hector's second-half header. The visitors had Ben Pearso dismissed after 26 minutes following a high tackle on Wednesday's Marco Matias and despite their best efforts, couldn't hold out for a point.

It was a similarly uplifting result for Ipswich Town who, despite their position at the foot of the table, managed to build on their first home win of the campaign by holding Sheffield United to a 1-1 draw at Portman Road. Ellis Harrison's stunning strike gave Paul Lambert's men the lead, but they were pegged back by Billy Sharp's header just after the break.

After coming back in fabulous fashion to earn a point at Blackburn Rovers last week, Birmingham City were back in the north west and cruised to a 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium to remain within touch of the Play-Off places. Meanwhile, Neal Maupay's 14th goal of the season earned Brentford a first win in seven matches at the expense of Bolton Wanderers.

At Pride Park, Derby County and Bristol City both had their goalkeepers to thank for securing them a point with second-half saves in what was an entertaining draw, while Saido Berahino's second-half header was enough to secure all three points for Stoke City against Millwall, whose poor away form continues.

A piece of history was made at the City Ground, as Queens Park Rangers beat Nottingham Forest away from home for the first time in their history, with Toni Leistner's header the only goal

In Saturday's late kick-off, Hull City won 3-2 against Swansea City.


Sky Bet League One was not short of drama, with Saturday's big game providing four goals and a red card. Portsmouth maintained their four-point lead at the top of the table with a pulsating victory over 10-man Sunderland at Fratton Park, with Gareth Evans, Ronan Curtis and Ben Thompson all on the scoresheet.

Luton Town continued to go about their business in style and secured a sixth straight victory with a goal in either half against Burton Albion. They have now lost just one of their last 16 league matches, and are unbeaten in League One since losing to Barnsley in October.

Charlton Athletic are also in flying form, and picked up a seventh league win in eight games by beating Gillingham at the Valley. Ben Reeves and Tariqe Fosu got the goals, as the Addicks moved level on points with third-placed Sunderland.

It was a big day for Bradford City too - the Bantams moved out of the relegation places with a second consecutive win and clean sheet, beating 10-man fellow strugglers Scunthorpe 2-0. 

There was late, late drama in Doncaster Rovers' clash with Oxford United, as the visitors twice came from behind - including a 97th-minute equaliser - to earn a point at the Keepmoat Stadium. Bristol Rovers were another side celebrating late on, as James Clarke's 94th-minute effort earned his side all three points against 10-man Fleetwood, who also had manager Joey Barton sent off.

Last-gasp goals were the theme of the day in League One, with AFC Wimbledon scoring in the 90th-minute to confirm a win at Wycombe Wanderers in the first meeting between the sides at this level. Meanwhile, Rochdale's Callum Camps bagged an 87th-minute winner, as Dale claimed victory at Southend United.

Elsewhere, Accrington Stanley got back on track after seven league matches without a win, scoring three goals inside 16 second-half minutes at Home Park to keep Plymouth Argyle second bottom. Barnsley also won on the road and remain just outside of the top six with a game in hand - Cameron McGeehan's goal was enough to see off Blackpool.

Finally, promotion-chasing Peterborough played out a 1-1 draw with Walsall, and Aaron Amadi-Holloway's goal four minutes into the second half gave Shrewsbury Town a narrow win over Coventry City.



There were plenty of goals in League Two, as Lincoln survived a scare against Newport County to cement their place at the top of the table going into Christmas. The Imps set the tone early on, with John Akinde and Harry Anderson putting them 2-0 up after just seven minutes, but Padraig Amond pulled a goal back just before half-time. Tom Pett's volley extended Lincoln's lead and they held on for the win despite Amond's second goal.

Victory means they are four points ahead of MK Dons, who slipped to a first home defeat of the season against fellow promotion hopefuls Colchester United, with Luke Prosser's goal enough to seal the win.

A hat-trick from the EFL's top scorer in 2018, Jayden Stockley, kept Exeter City in the hunt, as they beat Oldham Athletic 3-2 at Boundary Park. Just down the road, Bury secured a 2-1 victory over Tranmere Rovers, and remain fourth in the table.

There was a five-goal thriller at Crawley Town, where it was Carlisle United who came out on top, winning 3-2 with all of those goals being scored inside the opening hour. Dominic Poleon netted both Crawley goals, but it was Jack Sowerby's effort which won the game for the visitors.

Four more goals came in the game between Grimsby Town and Notts County, but this time all in the favour of the home side, who cruised to victory with two goals in either half to continue their fine form at Blundell Park. 

Two strikes in the final 13 minutes ultimately separated Stevenage and Mansfield Town at Broadhall Way, with the visitors eventually running out 3-1 winners to stay fifth with two games in hand. Elsewhere, Yoann Arquin's spectacular late volley rescued a point for Yeovil Town after late drama at home to Northampton. 

Colin Calderwood's reign as Cambridge United manager got off to a losing start as the U's were beaten 3-0 by fellow strugglers Morecambe, and Forest Green Rovers moved back into the play-off places with a 1-0 win Crewe Alexandra.

Sol Campbell and Macclesfield Town are now just three points from safety following a goalless draw with Port Vale, and it was the same scoreline between Swindon Town and Cheltenham Town.

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