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Championship Analysis – Phillips haunts former club as QPR go top with win at Blackpool

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By Kristian Hood

Monday 16 December 2013

QPR returned to the top of the Championship on Saturday after a hard-fought 2-0 win at fading Blackpool, taking advantage of the solitary point shared between title rivals Leicester and Burnley. The architect was Matt Phillips, who scored the first and provided the assist for Charlie Austin’s second.

Matt Phillips

The faithful at Bloomfield Road knew all about the tricky, if somewhat mercurial winger, who made 94 appearances for Blackpool, scoring 12 goals. Former Tangerines manager Ian Holloway described Phillips as “at times un-markable” after he made an instant impact in the Premier League during the 2010/2011 season, but his form fluctuated somewhat and it needed a loan spell with League 1’s Sheffield United, where he scored six goals in as many games, to rejuvenate him. By the end of the following season he was attracting bids of £5M but stayed at the club for another campaign before QPR snapped him up for an undisclosed fee this August.

It was another disappointing day for Blackpool, who have lost their way in recent matches, not helped by a lack of discipline that has seen manager Paul Ince sit through a five-match stadium ban and five of his players red-carded in the previous two fixtures.

The game of the day, of course, had taken place a few hours earlier at the King Power Stadium, and the 1-1 stalemate meant that Burnley temporarily maintained top spot while Leicester, now three games without a win, stayed third. The Foxes were the better side for long periods and missed several good chances to seal victory, so it wasn’t surprising that Nigel Pearson was the more downbeat of the two managers after the game.

“I suppose today we will be talking about the fact we've not taken the number of chances we created against a very good side. It was a tight encounter but we had enough chances to win the game, there's no doubt about that,” he said.

One team the front-runners need to be aware of is Derby County, who won their sixth game in succession at Charlton – indeed, their eighth in the 10 matches Steve McLaren has been in charge. The Rams, fourth, are now only five points off top spot and with a better goal difference than all but Burnley.

The most out of form team in the division is Watford, who suffered their fifth successive home defeat against Sheffield Wednesday and slumped to 13th place. Gianfranco Zola didn’t exactly inspire confidence afterwards.

“What is the real problem? I don't know,” said the Italian. “I know football is about results and results are more important than anything. I understand that and I'll see what is the best thing to do.”

Naturally it was a huge result for Wednesday, who remain in the bottom three alongside Yeovil and Barnsley for now but – being a game behind – will climb out at the expense of Charlton should they pick up at least a point at home to Wigan in midweek. The two other clubs in the relegation zone also avoided defeat on Saturday, albeit cancelling each other out in a 1-1 draw at Oakwell. On Sunday Uwe Rosler enjoyed his first win as manager of Wigan as the Latics saw off Bolton 3-2 in an enthralling Lancashire derby.

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