Championship Review – Reading Close the Gap as Southampton and West Ham Stutter.
Reading and Middlesbrough were the big winners as the nPower Championship maintained its reputation as one of the most competitive leagues in European Football. With the top two unable to pick up victories at home, the Royals closed the gap to the automatic promotion places to just a point with their seventh consecutive victory.
Southampton remained in top spot following their 1-1 draw at St Mary’s against Ipswich Town. Ricky Lambert’s strike had looked set to take the Saints four points clear at the top, but Jason Scotland grabbed an equaliser five minutes from time to earn a point for the visitors.
This meant that West Ham had the opportunity to draw level on points at the top when they took on Watford at Upton Park on Wednesday night. However they were heading for a shock defeat as they trailed to a Sean Murray goal as the game entered the closing stages. The Hammers though earned a point when Ricardo Vaz Te equalised three minutes from time, to keep Sam Allardyce’s side two points off the lead.
Reading now find themselves just a point outside the top two following their win on Tuesday night against cash-strapped Portsmouth. Noel Hunt’s first half goal was enough for the Royals to put them in serious contention for an automatic promotion place, whilst plunging Portsmouth ever closer to League One. Relegation seems inevitable for Michael Appleton’s side as they fell to the bottom of the table, six points adrift of safety.
Middlesbrough are fourth and still in contention for an automatic promotion place after their 2-0 home win over Barnsley. Goals from Bart Ogbeche and Seb Hines saw off the Tykes to lift Boro within six points of West Ham in second place.
Blackpool remain in 5th place but look like having to settle for a place in the play-offs as their 2-1 defeat at Derby leaves them nine points adrift of the top two. Steve Davies’ double strike cancelled out Tom Ince’s early goal to hand the Rams the three points.
With Birmingham City in FA Cup action on Tuesday night meant that the winner of Wednesday night’s clash between Brighton and Cardiff could leapfrog the Blues into the final play-off place. The Welsh side twice led through goals from Joe Mason and Peter Whittingham, but were pegged back twice with equaliser’s by Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes, the latter coming just two minutes from time. The draw maintained the Seagulls unbeaten league run in 2012 but left both sides still adrift of the play-off spots.
Hull and Leeds are still both in contention for a play-off position after their goalless draw at the KC Stadium. Leeds are still without a goal under Neil Warnock, whilst Hull continued their remarkable defensive run of conceding just one goal in seven games in a match of few chances.
Doncaster Rovers moved off the bottom of the table with a 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest. Frederic Piquionne scored on his debut to end a run of eight matches without a win, closing the gap on Forest to three points.
Coventry remain in the bottom three after a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace.