Championship Analysis – Sinclair shines as Swansea turn up heat in promotion chase

Scott Sinclair put on a dazzling display as Swansea edged out Nottingham Forest at the Liberty Stadium in one of the most entertaining games of the season. Sinclair tortured the Forest defence all afternoon and in truth should have added to the goal he scored, an individual effort of the highest quality as he bamboozled five opponents before slotting home.

Having signed for Chelsea from Bristol Rovers in July 2005 and played for six other clubs on loan before arriving at Swansea in the summer, it’s easy to forget that the tricky forward is just 21. Sinclair was never likely to break through at Stamford Bridge while the club maintained its policy of splashing out silly money on superstars, so his permanent move to south west Wales in August for a comparatively modest £500,000 was just what he needed to fully kick-start his career.

Manager Brendan Rogers admitted at the time that the club was lucky to welcome a player of such talent, and Sinclair has certainly made it his home. His wonder-goal on Saturday was his 22nd of the season, and he also provided an assist for the hugely impressive two-goal debutant loanee, Fabio Borini, also from Chelsea.

Sinclair’s displays have put him in the running for the Championship’s Player of the Year, alongside prolific Norwich hitman Grant Holt and QPR’s midfield wizard Adel Taarabt.

In the wider scheme of things, the result again typified the bumbling race to join QPR at the top of the table, as the other challengers all slipped up. Last Monday Norwich went three points clear in second place after a 3-1 win over Bristol City, but as Swansea were grabbing their three points on Saturday, the Canaries were being held by Hull, reducing the gap to just one again. Cardiff also had to settle for a point after a late goal denied them a win at Millwall, while Leeds were beaten in the lunchtime Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United. As for sixth-placed Forest, their seven consecutive league wins at the back end of 2010 seem a long time ago. Since that point, Billy Davies’s side have gone somewhat flat and are yet to win in March.

QPR, meanwhile, extended their lead at the summit to nine points with a 1-0 win at Doncaster, and in the process demonstrated the strength in depth that will almost certainly propel them into the Premier League. Taarabt missed the clash for personal reasons but his replacement, Hogan Ephraim, duly stepped in to secure the points.

At the bottom, Phil Brown, who until last week hadn’t a win to his name since taking over at Preston at the turn of 2011, enjoyed a second victory in five days. Following on from the Lilywhites’ thumping win over Scunthorpe in midweek, a last-gasp Nathan Ellington strike gave Brown’s side a 2-1 win over Coventry.

Despite their back-to-back wins, however, Preston remain eight points adrift of safety. Scunny’s humiliation at the hands of their relegation rivals cost manager Ian Baraclough his job and Tony Daws’s first game in precarious caretaker manager mode ended in a 2-0 defeat at Ipswich. Sheffield United leapfrogged the Iron with their impressive win over Leeds but it’s still Crystal Palace who at present hold the key to safety, maintaining a four-point buffer after a 2-2 draw with Derby.

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