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EFL matchday review: 23-25 Feb

25 February 2019

It was another rollercoaster of a weekend in the EFL, with the battles for promotion and against relegation more intense than ever across the divisions.

Norwich City ended the weekend at the top of the pile in the Sky Bet Championship, but their position in the table only tells half the story. The Canaries were made to work extremely hard for an eventual 3-2 victory over the league’s form side in Bristol City at Carrow Road, twice coming from behind to end the Robins’ seven-match winning run. 

The same can be said for fellow title challengers Leeds United, who kept up their automatic promotion charge with a 2-1 victory over struggling Bolton Wanderers, who found themselves level in the game until the 68th minute. In the end, it was Ezgjan Alioski’s second-half goal which proved decisive at Elland Road.

But Norwich and Leeds are by no means alone in their efforts at the top end of the standings. Saturday’s late kick-off was a mouth-watering clash between West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United, with the Blades securing a huge victory to move into second on goal difference, courtesy of a goal from Kieran Dowell. Despite the result, the Baggies remain well and truly in the mix, just four points behind their weekend opponents.

Things were more straightforward for Middlesbrough, who managed a 2-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers to further firm up their place in the Play-Off places. There were yet more goals at Brentford, who produced a five-star display on home soil – and not for the first time this season. The Bees cruised to a 5-1 victory over Hull City, despite going behind, with Said Benrahma netting a first hat-trick for the club. 

There were a couple of key battles towards the bottom of the table too, both of which ended in draws. Rotherham United salvaged a crucial away point at Reading through Semi Ajayi, while Wigan left it late to claim a share of the spoils against 10-man Ipswich Town – Joe Garner scoring against his former club. 

Elsewhere, a fast-paced first half for Sheffield Wednesday saw them race into a 3-0 lead against Swansea City, setting the tone for a 3-1 win which moves them level on points which the Swans. Preston North End also scored three times, winning by the same scoreline at Millwall, who remain in trouble.

Che Adams bagged another double as Birmingham City drew 2-2 with Blackburn Rovers, in a game which also saw Rovers defender Charlie Mulgrew score directly from a corner for the third time this season. Stoke City and Aston Villa played out a 1-1 draw, with Albert Adomah’s goal denying the Potters a first win in six.

Finally, Monday evening saw Nottingham Forest claim the bragging rights with a 1-0 win over rivals Derby County at the City Ground. The result lifted Forest to within a point of the Rams, and within three of the top six.

Sunderland and Charlton Athletic were the big winners at the top of Sky Bet League One this weekend, picking up three points with victories at relegation-threatened Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon respectively, while those around them dropped points.

Two promotion-chasing sides met at Fratton Park as Portsmouth took on Barnsley, but the game finished goalless, with Tykes goalkeeper Adam Davies the hero after saving a second-half penalty. Elsewhere, both Doncaster Rovers and Peterborough United failed to win, with the former drawing at Scunthorpe in the early kick-off and the latter losing at home to Shrewsbury Town. 

It was a massive victory for the Shrews, who are now two points outside of the relegation zone, above Oxford United on goal difference, following the Us’ 1-0 win at Blackpool. In fact, goal difference could prove crucial and is a worry for Rochdale, whose number in that column now reads -30 after a 5-1 defeat at Plymouth. 

Bradford City remain three points from safety; they suffered a 3-2 defeat at Walsall, despite the hosts going down to 10 men within the opening six minutes. Victory eases some of the pressure for the Saddlers, which was also the case for Gillingham, who picked up an important, late win at Wycombe Wanderers. 

In the last League One fixture to be played at the weekend, leaders Luton Town continued their incredible unbeaten run but had to settle for a point at home to Coventry City – the Hatters now haven’t suffered a league defeat in 21 games. 

Fleetwood Town kept alive their hopes of a late Play-Off charge by beating Burton Albion, courtesy of Ashley Nadesan's first goal for the club. Finally, Accrington Stanley v Southend United ended 1-1.

All 24 Sky Bet League Two sides were in action on Saturday, and it was an excellent weekend for those at the summit, with all of the top four sides winning. That included some derby delight for Bury, who secured their third win in a row with a 3-1 victory over Oldham Athletic to stay within touching distance of Lincoln City.

The Imps secured a comfortable 2-0 win at Morecambe, while third-placed Mansfield Town got back to winning ways by beating Forest Green Rovers. Tyler Walker got the goal for the Stags, before being shown a red card at the end of the game.

Like Bury, it’s now three wins on the spin for MK Dons, who had to be patient but eventually beat Newport County 2-0 at Stadium MK. It was a good weekend for Exeter City too, who moved into the Play-Offs by ending Crewe Alexandra’s recent run of form and capitalising on Colchester United’s draw against Carlisle United. 

Just below them, Tranmere Rovers continued to keep up their push for a Play-Off place by beating Notts County, leaving the latter rooted to the bottom of the table. County’s defeat was worsened by Macclesfield Town’s third successive draw, this time against Crawley Town. 

The big winners at the bottom were Yeovil Town, with Courtney Duffus' first goal for the club giving them a much needed 1-0 victory over Cambridge United, who aren’t yet out of trouble themselves. Cheltenham Town steered further clear of the drop zone, inflicting a fourth successive defeat on Port Vale, who are just three points above Macclesfield.

Finally, Northampton Town secured a 2-1 win away at Stevenage with a dramatic stoppage-time winner, and Swindon Town and Grimsby Town drew 1-1. 


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