Championship Analysis – Top three neck-and-neck as the promotion race hots up

The battle for promotion to the Premier League grew ever more intriguing at the weekend as Leicester and QPR drew level on points with Burnley. The Clarets have led the division since 1 October, six matches ago, and still hold a comfortable seven-goal buffer over their rivals in terms of goal difference, but three consecutive draws have allowed Leicester and QPR to wipe out their points deficit.

Of course, it would be unfair to focus too much energy on Burnley’s failure to win their last three games, not least because Saturday’s stalemate at Nottingham Forest actually extended their unbeaten run in the Championship to 12 matches, and their clash at the City Ground was the most difficult fixture of the three promotion chasers. Indeed, it was the game of the day and Burnley’s Sam Vokes revived an internal battle when his first-half penalty drew him level with fellow striker Danny Ings on 10 Championship goals. Forest, however, were the better team for long periods of the game, a factor acknowledged by both managers.

It is a travesty that we did not get three points. There was only one team that was going to win this game,” said Forest boss Billy Davies. “I was delighted with the performance. We played against the top of the league side and we had total dominance, nullifying them, barring five minutes. We deserved a lot more than we got.

Sean Dyche was critical of his team’s use of the ball but proud of his players’ resilience, commenting: “We picked up a point at Nottingham Forest and we are top of the league and it is hard to be disappointed – but I like the fact that there was a little disappointment after this.

Dyche also engaged in some light-hearted banter with his opposite number after hearing Davies bemoan injuries in the Forest camp. “We have 20-something players who are working hard for the cause. I think he was down to 32 players,” Dyche said.

The result means Forest remain fifth and a point behind Blackpool, who also shared a 1-1 draw with Birmingham. As it stands the priority for both is to consolidate their positions in the play-offs as the Tangerines now lie seven points below the leaders but only three points ahead of Derby and Reading in seventh and eighth positions respectively.

The Royals were dumped out of the top six by in-form Leeds, whose victory over Middlesbrough was their third on the trot. Ross McCormack showed no rustiness following the international break, adding to his four goals at Charlton with a first-half header in his side’s 2-1 triumph.

There were no real changes at the other end of the table as the bottom four all lost. It’s been a disappointing last couple of weeks for Sheffield Wednesday, who hinted at a recovery following the 5-2 thrashing of Reading, only to lose the subsequent two matches. A tumble by referee Roger East was a rare source of cheer for the Wednesday faithful, who saw their team beaten 2-1 by Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield. Terriers duo Martin Paterson and Adam Clayton allegedly served a ban from the club after a training ground incident last month, but they harmonised on Saturday, netting a goal each.

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