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Matchday 25: Review

It was yet another afternoon of incredible thrills and spills across the EFL on Saturday...

29 December 2018

It has been a year to remember in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two, and the final matchday of 2018 did not disappoint.

What better place to start than Carrow Road which, after seeing six goals on Boxing Day, provided another seven here, with Norwich City this time on the receiving end of an incredible comeback from Derby County. The hosts thought they had won it through Teemu Pukki's 15th goal of the season, but Florian Jozefzoon's strike three minutes from time, followed by Jack Marriott's 92nd-minute effort, won the game in the most unbelievable fashion for the away side.

Having produced a fantastic fightback of their own on Boxing Day, Leeds United couldn't keep their momentum going, and slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Hull, with two efforts from Jarrod Bowen securing a fourth consecutive win for the Tigers. Leeds remain top of the table, despite the defeat, three points ahead of Norwich.

Elsewhere, Sheffield United had to be patient but stayed in the hunt with an eventual 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Bramall Lane. They were reduced to 10 men when Chris Basham was sent off, but a red for Rovers' Richie Smallwood turned the tide, and the hosts scored three goals in quick succession - two from Billy Sharp - to make up ground on West Bromwich Albion.

The Baggies hosted a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday, who took the lead through Atdhe Nuhiu and looked to be heading for three points when Jay Rodriguez received the first red card of his career. Ten-man West Brom found a way through in the dying seconds though, as Chris Brunt popped up to rescue a point for Darren Moore's men.

It was a similar story in South Wales, as Wigan Athletic took a 2-0 lead over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium and were on course for just a second away win of the season, but the hosts came from behind and levelled proceedings in the 81st minute through Mike van der Hoorn.

Aston Villa also picked up a point on the road; they drew 1-1 at Preston North End to remain five points off the Play-Off places. Tammy Abraham gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time, but North End scored a second-half equaliser, courtesy of an own goal from Ahmed Elmohamady.

Things were more straightforward for Middlesbrough, who returned to winning ways against bottom Club Ipswich Town at the Riverside. Goals from Jordan Hugill and Marcus Tavenier secured a 2-0 win, which keeps them fifth. The result was made worse for the Tractor Boys by Millwall's 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest - secured by Ryan Tunnicliffe - which moves them further away from trouble.

Finally, Adam Webster's 86th-minute winner gave Bristol City a 1-0 win over Rotherham United, who ended the game with nine men. There were three goalless draws, between Birmingham City and Brentford, Bolton Wanderers and Stoke and Queens Park Rangers and Reading respectively.

There were plenty of goals around the grounds in League One too, including seven between 10-man Fleetwood Town and leaders Portsmouth, with the visitors running out 5-2 winners. Victory for Pompey means they'll enter 2019 with a three-point lead at the top of the table.

Luton Town had been hot on their heels, having won seven games on the spin, but found themselves 2-0 down at Walsall. They fought back though with two second-half goals, including Kazenga LuaLua's 94th-minute equaliser, to remain within touching distance of the summit.

At the other end, Bradford City produced a superb result - their third win in four league games - to move to within two points of safety. Four goals from four different scorers saw the Bantams secure a comfortable win over Rochdale at Spotland.

Peterborough United also won by a 4-0 scoreline away from home; they picked up a first win in five and sit fifth in the table after beating Accrington Stanley, with Ivan Toney scoring a hat-trick on route to victory.

The battle for the final Play-Off place is hotter than ever, with just a point separating Charlton Athletic and Doncaster Rovers after Saturday's results. The former lost 2-1 at Barnsley and had a man sent off, while the latter won 3-1 at Gillingham to keep up their challenge.

Elsewhere, Sunderland were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Shrewsbury, with youngster Josh Maja on the scoresheet again for the Black Cats. It was the same scoreline at Burton Albion, where Plymouth Argyle came from behind to pick up a valuable point, though they sit bottom.

Coventry City and Scunthorpe United both won 1-0, against Southend United and Wycombe Wanderers respectively, with Scunthorpe's result a massive boost to their survival hopes. They are level on points with Bradford, and just two from safety.

AFC Wimbledon also ensured that all of the bottom four sides would pick up at least a point, they played out a goalless draw against Blackpool. In the early kick-off, Bristol Rovers won 2-0 at Oxford to leave them in trouble.

The competitive nature of League Two showed again, with just one of the top seven and two of the bottom 12 sides picking up a win. 

That made it a good day for leaders Lincoln City, who got back to winning ways by beating Cambridge United away from home. They are now six points ahead of second-placed MK Dons going into the New Year, after they could only draw 2-2 at Northampton.

Carlisle United moved a step closer to the Play-Off places by securing their fourth consecutive league win, but they were made to work hard against Macclesfield Town, who took an early lead in the game.

Just three points separate Mansfield Town in third and Carlisle in eighth after the Stags were also held to a draw against Swindon Town, and it was a similar story for Colchester United, who drew 0-0 with Morecambe. It's just as tight at the bottom, following a goalless draw between Notts County and Bury. 

Another team in fine form are Grimsby, who continued their good run with a 2-1 win at promotion hopefuls Exeter City, despite going down to 10 men on 51 minutes.

Elsewhere, Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, with all four goals coming in the second half, and five goals were scored between Port Vale and Oldham, with the visitors running out 4-1 winners.

Tranmere Rovers v Yeovil Town and Newport County v Crawley Town both finished 0-0.

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