Saturday’s Championship matches produced goal-gluts, shocks and a flurry of last minute Christmas cards…of the red variety. Here are four talking points from the latest round of matches:
Are you watching Premier League?
In a match that saw more goals than all the top flight’s 3 o’clock kick-offs put together, Peterborough beat Bolton by the odd goal in nine.
A week after the Posh’s shock win against Cardiff, Darren Ferguson’s bottom-placed side gifted their fans a goal bonanza. But at 5-2 up with only seven minutes to play, they were equally generous to their guests, as two goals in two minutes meant a nervous finish.
The pick of the goals came from Peterborough’s on-loan striker Dwight Gayle, whose excellent right foot volley made it five goals in his first four starts for the club. The club have since announced that Gayle will sign permanently in January in a deal worth £750,000.
A hat-trick of braces
Keith Andrews’ two penalties kept his team in the game against Peterborough, but three other players saw their doubles earn all three points for their clubs.
Luciano Becchio has scored with a remarkable 45% of his shots this season; if he played Middlesbrough every week that would be even higher. Leeds United’s top scorer has now scored five in his last four games against Boro, and his double on Saturday – including a sublime volley that cannoned in off the post – made it 17 for the season.
Watford’s Matej Vydra fired his team into the top six with two against Nottingham Forest…and with it showed the two sides to goal-scoring. His first was a thunder-bolt that gave Forest’s Lee Camp no chance, and his second was a deft finish under the ‘keeper after a defence-splitting pass by Almen Abdi.
On Friday evening, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored the goals that gave Wolves an impressive away win at Blackpool, a team who had previously been unbeaten under Michael Appleton.
The striker then missed the easiest chance of the lot, skewing the ball over an open goal for what would have been his hat-trick. But fans will forgive that as Wolves made it three wins from the last four.
Could this be Cardiff’s year?
A hard-fought (and some may say lucky) win against Leicester City put down a marker as they approach the new year. Champions win even when they are not playing well, and in a first half that saw the Foxes do everything but score, it was Craig Bellamy who proved the winner with a perfectly-placed volley from just inside the box.
Bellamy may just prove the difference in a league where nothing is certain until the last final whistle is blown. But however you read a match that saw the home side rack up 18 goal attempts and the visitors only four, Cardiff scored from one of theirs. In football, it really is that simple.
The match that wasn’t just about one man after all
If you believe the vast majority of pundits and fans alike, Wilfried Zaha will not be at Crystal Palace much longer. If his goal against Huddersfield proves to be his last for the Eagles, it was one befitting a player who is being championed as the next big thing.
A brilliant first-half strike showed raw skill and the confidence of youth as he smashed it in off the post. But it wouldn’t have been possible without a sublime flick from teammate Yannick Bolasie, who is fast becoming yet another Palace wonder kid.
And then there was goalkeeper Julian Speroni, who kept his team in the game with a series of outstanding saves, only to mess it all up as the simplest shot trickled through his legs for the Huddersfield equaliser.
And mention must also go to Sean Scannell, playing against his old team and terrorising them time and again down the left, his pace and trickery forcing some of those fine saves from Speroni, winning a penalty, and generally looking like he was intent on single-handedly putting one over his former employers with some great wing play.
image: © joncandy