Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town, Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers all feature.
The latest round of Championship matches saw impressive wins for the top three, another controversial refereeing decision and a few more turns on the managerial merry-go-round.
Two-for-one yellow cards
Another weekend, another dodgy refereeing decision; although in truth this was less dodgy, more ridiculous.
The 0-0 result in the Yorkshire derby between Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday suggests it was a game of little note. But in many ways it is the headline story – as Wednesday’s Jeremy Helan was booked…and booked again…but remained on the pitch regardless.
Referee Mick Russell gave the winger his first yellow card for diving, and his second 17 minutes later for a foul on Adam Hammill. But as everyone waited for a dismissal, the game continued with 11 versus 11.
Only later did the referee admit to writing the wrong number down following the first booking. Not that Huddersfield manager Simon Grayson was appeased by that explanation. “It was an honest mistake,” he said. “But it’s an honest mistake that shouldn’t happen.”
Questioning why Russell’s assistants and the fourth official did not highlight the mistake at the time, Grayson made a very valid point about the officials as a whole. If they are to be known as a team, they should work as one.
The Tigers start to roar
Sixth months into Steve Bruce’s reign, his Hull City side are playing some of the best football in the league. An outstanding attacking display saw them beat Leeds 2-0, with only profligacy and good goalkeeping preventing a cricket score.
After missing a hatful of chances, two goals in three second-half-minutes finally sealed the win. Corry Evans shot across Paddy Kenny for the first, before David Meyler’s bullet-header made it two.
Bruce’s team have dropped only two points from their last six games. And with an attack spearheaded by the ever-improving Sone Aluko, the pace and directness of Robbie Brady and Ahmed Elmohamady, and the defensive marshalling of Abdoulaye Faye, they could be dark horses for the title.
Comings and goings (and an ‘approach with caution’)
Saturday saw another round of managerial debuts, departures and warning signs. The debut was for Alex McLeish, whose Nottingham Forest side twice came from behind to earn a point against Crystal Palace.
McLeish is fast-becoming the man no one wants, after the fan furore following his ill-fated appointment at Aston Villa was echoed after Sean O’Driscoll’s shock sacking last week. But Big Eck praised the character of his new team as a 92nd-minute Billy Sharp goal gave him a share of the points.
The departure was that of Barnsley’s Keith Hill, after the Tyke’s 3-1 defeat at home to Blackburn sent them to the bottom of the table. With just one win in their last 14 matches, the sacking made sense…which is more than can be said for much of what goes on at Ewood Park these days.
After Henning Berg’s 57-day tenure resulted in a single win, the latest man in charge – reserve team coach Gary Bowyer – has matched that already. But the warning signs are there for all to see. To manage Blackburn is to take a risk…a big one! Of all the Christmas soap operas, this one is the barmiest.
Welcome back, Mick
It is not often that a visiting manager receives such a warm welcome from the home fans. But that was the case when Mick McCarthy returned to Molineux for the first time since Wolves sacked him in February.
By the end of the match – which McCarthy’s Ipswich won 2-0 – the fans had turned their attention to the man currently in charge, Stale Solbakken. After a good run of recent form, Wolves slumped to back-to-back defeats over Christmas. And some fans may be wondering where they would be now if the Irishman was still in charge.
With only four wins from the 18 home games since he was dismissed, it was surely with some relish that McCarthy warned the Wolves fans to be careful what they wish for.
image: © tony.evans