Five-star Bournemouth returned to the top of the Championship on Saturday evening after sharing an eight-goal thriller with Cardiff at Dean Court. Unsurprisingly the Cherries still top the scoring charts and it has proven decisive as they are level with Middlesbrough on both points and goal difference.
“For us to be top of the Championship before Christmas is a great achievement and our aim now is to build on that and extend our lead at the top,” said Bournemouth assistant manager Jason Tindall. “We pride ourselves on attacking football but maybe that was the reason we conceded some poor goals today. But the fact that we are top and all five goals were scored by different players shows just how good this squad can be.”
With another five goals in the bag, it would be easy to imagine Tindall and Eddie Howe expecting to be top scorers as Saturday evening arrived but, not only were they matched by Norwich, who hammered Huddersfield to go seventh, they were outscored by none other than Birmingham, who the Cherries had humiliated only a month previously.
Many are cynical about the nature of psychology – and with good reason – but Birmingham’s turnaround under Gary Rowett has been remarkable so far, with 14 points from a possible 21, and perhaps most significantly three home wins on a ground that had been dream turf for opposing sides for many months before Rowett’s arrival.
Rowett has clearly become a key figure in the Birmingham dressing room and instilled life into a group of players that for whatever reason had become completely detached from his predecessor, Lee Clark. Of course, Rowett’s only defeat so far was at the hands of Blackpool last week, with Clark haunting his former team.
Rowett suggested his team were unfocused in front of their former boss, a comment that could have been considered disrespectful by some – albeit acknowledged by Clark – but his side’s 6-1 thrashing of Reading, with 18-year-old Demarai Gray scoring a first half hat-trick, indicates last week’s defeat was merely a blip and beaten away comprehensively.
The tussle at the top remains as tight as ever, as demonstrated by three clubs leading the table within the space of five hours on Saturday. Derby started the day top but left the north east second in mid-afternoon after defeat to Middlesbrough, who were toppled by Bournemouth at 5pm. There could even have been a fourth alternative had Ipswich not been held by Bolton.
At the bottom, Blackpool dug out a decent point at Charlton but remain eight points from safety, and the situation is looking increasingly worrying for Wigan, who are now four points adrift. At the time of writing, Sami Hyypia is still Brighton manager but is under increasing pressure after Friday night’s home defeat to an equally out-of-form Millwall. The Seagulls have now only won once in 17 matches.
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