Derby remained top of the Championship despite defeat to Leeds after none of their closest rivals were able to advantage. Indeed, only three teams in the entire top half managed victories, which made it an excellent day for Brentford, who shot into the top three after thrashing Wolves 4-0.
It was the Bees’ fifth win on the trot, which began with a victory over the Rams, and in a division in which no team has truly laid down a marker – only four points separate the top six – it would be foolish not to take Brentford’s surge seriously.
Indeed, while many managers and fans of a relatively small club like Brentford would place themselves tentatively on the back foot, it was refreshing to hear manager Mark Warburton taking the opposite stance.
“People talk to me about coming into this division and looking to survive, but that’s nonsense,” he said following the win over Wolves. “Our aim isn’t just to stay in this division. That is not what we are about. We want to maintain our level of performance and see where we end up in May.”
On the downside, those dreaming of watching Premier League football at Griffin Park will, as it stands at least, be disappointed. The ground currently doesn’t meet Premier League standards in areas such as undersoil heating, media facilities and changing rooms, although it appears the modest capacity of just under 13,000 isn’t a problem. The club has had a new stadium approved but this isn’t set to open for another three years, so promotion would mean ground-sharing.
Elsewhere at the top end, Bournemouth were left the most broken-hearted after a Millwall equaliser in the dying seconds proved the difference between top and fourth spots.
Perhaps the most refreshing reaction to controversial drama for some time came from Stuart Pearce at St Andrew’s, where Birmingham snatched a late win over his Nottingham Forest side thanks to a penalty that was initially not awarded by the referee, nor assistant until the fourth official intervened.
“It took a while for the decision to be made but eventually the right one was and we accept that. We’ll never be a football club that bemoans the match officials,” said Forest manager Stuart Pearce. “I saw Britt [Assombalonga] handball it and so did the fourth official behind me. I’m not quite sure how the referee and his linesman, who were closer, could not see that but fair play to the referee. He has admitted he couldn’t see the incident.”
Birmingham have continued to improve and remain unbeaten under Gary Rowett. The club is slowly but surely seeing off their previous long-term hoodoo at St Andrew’s, with Saturday’s win their second at home since Rowett’s arrival. The Blues now have a four-point buffer over the relegation zone, which dragged in a new member in Brighton on Saturday.
The Seagulls are on a rotten run and under-fire manager Sami Hyypia admitted: “We need to turn it around very quickly. It’s not a nice position to be in and the fans have a right to be unhappy.”
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