Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for March, whilst Semi Ajayi of Rotherham United has been awarded the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month.
Manager of the Month
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for March.
A perfect month and maximum 15 points from five games included wins over three Midlands rivals - Derby, Nottingham Forest and, of course, Birmingham.
Smith said: “I’m delighted to have been named Manager of the Month – it’s a reward for all the staff here at Aston Villa. We’ve had a good month and we now need to make sure we keep it going.”
George Burley chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “Dean is ‘Villa’ through and through and that means the results achieved in February will be even more satisfying.
“Aston Villa won all five of their matches in the month, scoring 13 goals and conceding only two.
“Wins against three Midlands rivals while climbing into the Play-Off places were the icing on the cake.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “What a transformation Dean Smith masterminded in his team during the month of March.
“At the end of February, it was almost impossible to imagine Aston Villa putting a run together to realistically challenge for a Play-Off spot let alone be in pole position to secure one, but the tightening up of a porous defence and the return to fitness of Jack Grealish has transformed them into the team that all the others may fear most.’’
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Dean Smith has got Villa flying at the minute. The Villains have won their last seven matches and look red hot going into the Play-Offs.
“They were 50/1 for promotion at the start of them month and are now as short as 9/4 to make a return to the top tier of English football this season. I don’t think anyone will look forward to playing them in this form.”
Player of the Month
Rotherham United midfielder Semi Ajayi has been named the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for March.
Ajayi’s power and will to win were always suited to the transition from central defence to midfield.
Less predictable were five goals in five games, three courtesy of prodigious leaps and flying headers, two immaculately timed low shots.
Ajayi said: “It is a massive honour, and it is something I am really pleased to receive. I have to say though that the award is a team effort, I wouldn't be in the position to collect the award without my team mates.
“During the month we performed well in a number of games, picking up some vital points. It was a good all round team effort. I am also hugely grateful to the staff, who have been brilliant.
"It was a good month, and to be given the award ahead of some very stiff opposition is even more pleasing.
“The season is coming to a close now, but from a team perspective we are still fighting hard to keep this club in The Championship, and from a personal point of view this will also give me confidence going into the remaining games this season.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “When the situation is as desperate as it is for Rotherham at the moment, a point can make all the difference.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that if Rotherham manage to stay in the division, it will be down – in no small part – to Ajayi’s goals from midfield.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Semi Ajayi for a defender was in the goalscoring form of his life in March and his five goals in five games and excellent performances had given The Millers a fighting chance of staying in the division.
“Unfortunately they are currently 4/9 to go down after last night’s defeat but they had drifted to as big as 11/8 for the drop after they beat QPR earlier in the month but have it all to do again now to stay up.”