With 11 clubs in FA Cup action over the weekend, the Championship fixture list was thin on the ground, with only four league games taking place. Nevertheless, there was movement at both ends as a result.
Leicester City took full advantage of fixtureless rivals QPR and Burnley, enjoying a 2-0 win over a Middlesbrough side that had been on a fine run beforehand, having taken 16 points from a possible 18, enough for Boro to start sniffing the play-off places. Leicester, of course, were in even more devastating form and Saturday’s win was the Foxes’ seventh in a row, sending them eight points clear of QPR in second.
Perhaps more impressively, Nigel Pearson’s side have had to overcome obstacles in the past couple of weeks that lesser sides would have fallen over spectacularly, grinding out a somewhat fortunate late win at Leeds last week before tackling – as with practically every football pitch across the UK – dire conditions that saw ground staff frantically attempting to clear puddles on the rain-sodden turf at half-time with the score still 0-0.
“It was a very good win in difficult conditions in the first half. That probably suited them [Middlesbrough] more than us because we were not able to play the type of football we have been accustomed to at home,” acknowledged Pearson.
“But we stuck at it, limited their opportunities to a minimum and, as the weather improved, so did our effectiveness on the game.
Leicester will be aiming to make it a record eight consecutive wins away at Birmingham on Tuesday. QPR and Burnley host Bolton and Brighton respectively before playing each other next Saturday in what could go a long way to deciding who takes the second automatic spot.
There were two other games affecting the higher end of the table. Reading missed the chance to pull further clear of the play-off chasing pack when they were beaten by Ipswich at Portman Road. Indeed, it meant the Tractor Boys closed the gap on the Royals to two points as they leapt from 10th to 7th. They overtook Blackburn in the process after Rovers had to settle for a point at home to Derby, a result that didn’t do the visitors many favours either in their battle to stay in touch with the automatic promotion chasers.
At the bottom, Doncaster moved out of the relegation zone at the expense of Charlton – another team in FA Cup action – after a 1-1 draw at Blackpool, and the point was also enough for Donny to overtake Millwall on goal difference. Intriguingly, the two clubs go head-to-head at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday evening in a clash that has extra spice due to the reverse fixture ending in the Addicks’ favour but only after the second attempt; the first was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch at the Valley with Doncaster leading 3-1 at half-time.
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