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Five things we learned from the festive period in the EFL

3 January 2023

Now that the buzz of the festive period is over, it's time to look back at an action-packed Christmas and New Year. Here are five things you may have missed...

Hat-trick heroes

There were a couple of players who got match balls for Christmas, with both Matt Smith and Josh Windass notching hat-tricks for their Clubs, Salford City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.

Smith’s came against Grimsby Town in a 4-1 victory in Sky Bet League Two, with the Ammies striker wrapping up the treble five minutes before the half time whistle sounded. And it was the perfect hat-trick, with the 33-year-old opening the scoring inside a minute with a left-footed volley, doubling his tally with a right-footed drive and completing the move with a header.

Elsewhere, yesterday saw Sheffield Wednesday put in a five-star performance against Cambridge United in Sky Bet League One, and Windass stole the show. His goals marked his first treble since the attacker put three past Hamilton Academical for Rangers in February 2018 in the Scottish Premiership.

Flying start 

In the Sky Bet Championship, Middlesbrough have enjoyed an impressive upturn in form since the arrival of former Manchester United man Michael Carrick, who arrived at the Riverside in late October.

Since then, Carrick has picked up 22 points in his first 10 games in the hotseat – a start only beaten by former Boro boss Bryan Robson in 1994, who trumped him by a single point when the Club went on to win the Division One title. And Middlesbrough made it three wins in three over the festive period, beating Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City to lift them up to fifth in the standings.

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Meanwhile, there were managerial movements across the three divisions. Matthew Etherington departed Crawley Town, whilst Danny Cowley left his post at Portsmouth, and Norwich City are on the lookout for a new boss after the exit of Dean Smith. 

Memorable milestones ticked off 

Stockport County goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe made his 300th appearance for the Hatters as the stopper started between the sticks in a 1-0 defeat to Grimsby in League Two. Nevertheless, it was a memorable day for Hinchliffe, who became the first player to hit the milestone since Sean Connelly over two decades ago in 1999.

At 23-year-of-age, Exeter City midfielder Archie Collins ticked off his 200th appearance for the Grecians, having come through the Club’s Academy as a youngster. Collins featured as Exeter edged Oxford United in a 1-0 triumph in League One on New Year’s Day.

And long-serving Sutton United skipper Craig Eastmond played his 350th game for the U's, who saw off local rivals AFC Wimbledon in a 2-1 win.

A look at the standings

At the top of the table in League One, Plymouth Argyle have now amassed more points than any other team in the EFL. The Pilgrims, who have registered just one defeat in their last 21 league outings, have 53 points to their name, with victories over Cheltenham Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Milton Keynes Dons over Christmas and New Year. Meanwhile, Ipswich Town dropped out of the top two over the festive period.

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In League Two, Stevenage have narrowed the gap to make up ground on Leyton Orient sitting at the summit. The two teams played out a goalless stalemate after Boxing Day, which Steve Evans’ side followed up with back-to-back wins. Boro now trail Orient by two points as the race at the top heats up.

The unpredictability of the Championship

As for the Championship, both Burnley and Sheffield United kept up their unbeaten streaks, with the Blades rescuing a late point in a 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers in the New Year, courtesy of John Egan’s 96th minute equaliser. However, no team in the division has earned more points, scored more goals, kept more clean sheets or secured more wins than Sheffield United in 2022.

Elsewhere, just five points stand between fourth-placed Watford and 15th-placed Swansea City, with all still to play for in 2023.


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