Saturday, 2 March 2013

Match Report: Derby 0-1 Crystal Palace

Julian Speroni saved Conor Sammon’s late penalty as Crystal Palace secured a first away win since November with a 1-0 victory at Pride Park tonight. Yannick Bolasie clinically scored the game’s only goal for the promotion hopefuls, who looked good value for the three points until captain Mile Jedinak fouled substitute Ben Davies in the penalty area with three minutes remaining. However, Sammon’s powerful spot-kick was brilliantly deflected onto the bar by the Argentinian shot-stopper to consign Nigel Clough’s side to a first home defeat of 2013. Palace manager Ian Holloway received a welcome boost with Wilfred Zaha, on loan from Manchester United after joining the Premier League leaders in January, returning from a dead leg that had kept him out of Saturday’s defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. The returning forward had to wait just five minutes for his first opportunity - a long ball upfield was flicked on by Glenn Murray and Zaha’s change of pace allowed him to sear in behind the Derby backline, only to then shoot straight at Adam Legzdins. Palace were enjoying the better of the opening exchanges and Murray’s lay-off for Stephen Dobbie might have brought the opening goal had the former West Brom man’s 20-yard shot not deflected into the side-netting. The breakthrough came in the 13th minute in freak circumstances. Eagles skipper Jedinak won a thunderous challenge inside his own half and the ball went flying up field to Bolasie, who took full advantage of Derby’s AWOL backline to coolly round the keeper and fire home. Palace might have had a second three minutes later when Jedinak’s 25-yard thunderbolt cannoned off the crossbar, while at the other end only the excellent Damien Delaney’s last-ditch challenge prevented Sammon going clean through on goal. Derby began to play their way into the game; Jamie Ward had a volleyed effort parried behind by Speroni, before John Brayford’s low cross was only half-cleared to Craig Bryson, who shot straight at the veteran keeper. A delightful one-two between Paul Coutts and Chris Martin put the former clear down the right, and after his low cross had deflected towards the penalty spot Norwich loanee Martin drew a good save from Speroni. A quick visiting counter attack five minutes before half-time saw Bolasie play in Dobbie, but the Scot sliced his shot wide. Another swift break saw Bryson deny Bolasie a second when he headed the Frenchman’s 44th-minute effort off the line with Legzdins in no-man’s land. Derby were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in first-half stoppage time when Peter Ramage appeared to haul Martin down inside the box, but Sammon should have levelled seven minutes after the break when Martin’s clever overhead kick played Michael Jacobs in down the left channel and the substitute squared to the Irishman, only for Speroni to smother his effort after the former Wigan forward hesitated. Legzdins did well to deny the visitors a second goal after 65 minutes when he brilliantly tipped Jonathan Williams’ 20-yard effort over the bar, after the substitute had gone on a dazzling run from the halfway line. Derby were enjoying the better of the second half, but when the ball dropped to Jacobs unmarked 12 yards out he wastefully dragged his volley wide. The hosts were struggling to fashion clear-cut opportunities, but Speroni had to be alert to push away Richard Keogh’s low drive from the edge of the box, before Sammon’s penalty woe capped a miserable night for the home fans.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Match Report: Charlton 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Radoslaw Majewski and Henri Lansbury were on target as Nottingham Forest swept aside 10-man Charlton 2-0. New Forest boss Billy Davies this week called on his two midfielders to chip in with more goals after both broke their ducks in Tuesday's 6-1 drubbing of Huddersfield. And they were clearly paying attention as Polish midfielder Majewski, who had not found the net in his first 20 games, made it four in two matches while Lansbury doubled his tally for the campaign. Davies can now boast a draw and two wins from his first three games since returning to the City Ground, with his in-form side moving ominously towards the play-off places. Charlton were already up against it but Yann Kermorgant did them no favours by getting himself sent off for clashing with Greg Halford in the 37th minute. The French striker aimed a kick at Forest defender Halford off the ball and, after consulting with his assistant, referee Andrew Madley showed him a straight red card. Charlton made it to the break all-square but lasted just eight minutes of the second half before Majewski struck. Reid found the Pole in the area and, although his touch appeared heavy, it took him past a couple of defenders before he prodded the ball past Hamer. Lansbury then had a shot deflected narrowly wide, but the former Arsenal midfielder's luck was in on the hour mark. Hamer badly fumbled a weak shot from Simon Cox and Lansbury was gifted a tap-in from inside the six-yard box. It was almost 3-0 moments later but Hamer managed to scramble Elliott Ward's flick against a post, before Majewski wasted another good chance when he blasted over the top again.

Match Report: Blackburn 0-0 Leeds

Blackburn and Leeds played out an uneventful goalless draw at Ewood Park - a result that does little for either side's npower Championship play-off hopes. Leeds pinned the hosts into their own half for much of the early action but the only save of note in the opening 45 minutes came when Paddy Kenny denied Rovers forward Colin Kazim-Richards. Ross McCormack wasted Leeds' best chance shortly after half-time while Blackburn's top scorer Jordan Rhodes brought Ewood Park to its feet with a shot into the side netting. Rovers returned to their miserly defensive ways following Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat at Hull to keep a fifth clean sheet in nine games under Michael Appleton but strike pairing Rhodes and DJ Campbell were badly starved of service. It was a similar story for Leeds, whose attacks lacked the bite given to them by Luciano Becchio before his deadline day move to Norwich. If Middlesbrough beat Millwall in this evening's late kick-off, Neil Warnock's Whites will lie eight points shy of the top six with 13 games to play - one more than Boro - and a point ahead of Blackburn, who also hold a game in hand.

Match Report: Brighton 1-0 Burnley

Brighton boosted their Championship promotion chances as a goal from David Lopez secured a 1-0 victory over Burnley at the AMEX Stadium. Wayne Bridge's cross from the left was flicked on towards the back post by Andrea Orlandi where Lopez volleyed home , with poor marking from the visitors contributing to their problems. The game had begun brightly enough but was short on clearcut chances, although Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak was forced to tip a Junior Stanislas ball over the bar. Orlandi then headed a whipped corner from Vicente over at the other end before the hosts took the lead. Burnley rallied and Jason Shackell twice went close to grabbing an equaliser. His goalbound header was cleared off the line by Albion midfielder Gary Dicker, before Kuszczak pulled off a superb save with the ball heading for the bottom corner from Dicker's second effort. Grant McCann hit a half-volley over in the closing stages and Dean Marney shot wide after Danny Ings crossed from the byline. But Gus Poyet's side held out as they moved back into the play-off places.

Match Report: Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Crystal Palace

Sheffield Wednesday made two changes for the visit of Crystal Palace to Hillsborough in the Championship. Wednesday made two changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Birmingham in midweek. In came captain Anthony Gardner and Kieran Lee for Martin Taylor and Jeremy Helan who dropped to the bench. There was no place for Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha, the £15m winger ruled out for the visitors with a dead leg. The Owls came close to opening the scoring on 21 minutes, Kieran Lee’s right-wing cross picking out Leroy Lita but his header was too close to goalkeeper Julian Speroni. Lewis Buxton and David Prutton also had long-range efforts that flew over the crossbar. Lee’s volley, from Michail Antonio’s back-post cross, was blocked in a packed Palace box and Connor Wickham was unable to react quick enough to stab home the loose ball. At the other end, David Prutton was left winded after throwing himself in front of Scott Dobbie’s 25-yard drive. Dobbie forced Chris Kirkland into a fine save at his near post at the start of the second half, before Buxton threw himself in front of Glenn Murray’s effort. Dave Jones introduced Jeremy Helan and Gary Madine as substitutes to try and force a goal, but Palace broke away and Yannick Bolasie toe-poked an effort which Kirkland did well to save one-handed. But the Owls finally broke the deadlock in the 80th minutes, Antonio’s cross picking out Lita whose header crashed into the net off the underside of the bar. And Lita should have wrapped up victory in stoppage time when Madine sent him scampering away, but he could not beat Speroni in a one-on-one.

Match Report: Watford 2-1 Derby

Watford sit second in the Championship tonight after Matej Vydra’s 20th league goal of the season and Joel Ekstrand's first for the Hornets helped them battle to a 2-1 victory over Derby County at Vicarage Road. Alex Geijo, Joel Ekstrand and Ikechi Anya could, and probably should, have put Watford at least a goal in front before Vyrdra showed them how it should be done with an exquisite finish to make it 1-0 after 35 minutes. It looked the Hornets had made the game safe midway through the second half when Joel Ekstrand bundled in an Almen Abdi corner to score his first goal in yellow. Although Jamie Ward halved the deficit from the penalty spot five minutes later, Gianfranco Zola’s men held for the three points on a day when promotion rivals Hull City and Crystal Palace were both beaten and Leicester City could only draw. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but the Hornets once again showed the ability to grind it and leave their automatic promotion fate in their own hands with 12 games to go and leave them five points behind leaders Cardiff City. Like for the 2-0 win at Ipswich Town on Tuesday night, Zola opted to make three changes as his side sought to go through a calendar month unbeaten for the first time this season.Cristian Battocchio came in for Jonathan Hogg in midfield, Vydra returned for Fernando Forestieri, while Geijo started a game for the first time since the 2-0 defeat at Bristol City as Troy Deeney was rested to the bench. This meant the Hornets strikers started a match together for the first time since the 6-1 victory at Leeds United in November. Nigel Clough made just the one change to the side that drew 1-1 against Bolton Wanderers last time out, with Ben Davies replacing Kieron Freeman at right-back. The Hornets were quickly out of the traps and missed a great opportunity to take the lead in the sixth minute. Vydra showed superb strength and tenacity to get in between the Rams’ central defensive pairing of Richard Keogh and John Brayford and squeeze in a shot which keeper Adam Legzdins was quickly off his line to block. However, the ball ran to Geijo on the edge of the area and he tried to steer it into the unguarded net with a cushioned right-footed half-volley, only to slice it wide. Another chance came the hosts’ way soon after when Anya’s cross from the left reached Marco Cassetti on the opposite side of the area and he struck a powerful shot which the keeper managed to parry out to safety. Derby had been on the back foot in their opening stages but they carved out their first opening in the tenth minute when Jeff Hendrick found Ward on the right side of the area and he came back inside on his left foot before curling a shot wide of Manuel Almunia’s right-hand post. It took a superb challenge from Keogh to prevent Vydra having a clear run on goal after almost being picked out by Geijo’s pass. The Hornets then got a little sloppy though, and were perhaps fortunate not to be punished when a Michael Jacobs shot was partially blocked and almost broke to one of three unmarked team-mates but Almunia was able to save. After the game had gone through a quiet spell, Anya injected some life into it when he showed superb skill down the left, including a lovely flick over his own head, to break into the area. Although he was unable to pick a team-mate out with his low centre, Watford kept the attack going, which reached its next stage with Geijo setting up Vydra for a right-footed strike which was deflected behind. Almen Abdi took the set-piece from the right and his delivery was allowed to bounce in the area and run to Ekstrand who, from six yards out, blasted horribly over the top when he should at least have hit the target. That was a bad miss by the hosts and another one was to follow in the 33rd minute. It started when Geijo received the ball near halfway with his back to goal, he turned it around the corner to Vydra, who managed to get in ahead of the Derby backline and then sprinted clear. It was perhaps a surprise the Hornets top scorer did not go it alone but he unselfishly squared to Anya, who contrived to miss a largely unguarded net from six yards out. The Hornets had not been playing that well but could quite easily have been 3-0 up. But they were not to be so wasteful with their next opportunity in the 35th minute when the home side’s striking ace reached a significant landmark. Again Geijo was the creator, again finding Vydra, who sprinted clear from around 40 yards out before hitting a lovely low right-footed finish from 18 yards which rebounded off the inside of Legzdins’ near post and rolled across the line before nestling in the opposite corner of the net to make it 1-0 with his 20th league goal of the campaign. Having taken the lead, the Hornets suffered a serious blow two minutes before the break when Nyron Nosworthy played his keeper into trouble near the right side of the penalty and after tangling with Ward, Almunia went down holding his left hamstring. The former Arsenal stopper tried to continue after receiving treatment but after catching one ball, he immediately threw it into touch and signalled to the bench that he could not continue. Jonathan Bond came on and was soon involved in the action, making a confidence-boosting solid save to hold on to Craig Bryson’s effort from the right side of the area. Ben Davies became the first player to be booked in first-half stoppage time after scything down Vydra. Abdi’s resultant free-kick from left of centre around 22 yards couldn’t beat the wall but the ball broke for Anya, whose right-footed strike from the edge of the area was fumbled back into the box by Legzdins before the ball was hacked to safety. Clough made a double change at the start of the second half, with Jake Buxton coming on for Michael Hoganson and new signing Chris Martin replacing Jacobs. Conor Sammon hit an early shot wide after the restart and then Bryson saw an effort blocked around five minutes later as the Hornets found attacking opportunities hard to come by in the early stages after the resumption. Watford’s first effort of the second period came in the 56th minute when, following a throw-in from the left, a Geijo back heel released Abdi on the left side of the area and he tried to catch Legzdins out with a toe-poke towards the near post but the keeper was not deceived. Ward then saw yellow after leaving Anya in heap but as the half progressed, the Hornets were still struggling to get going and while not living dangerously, they weren’t making the game too comfortable for themselves either. But that was to all change in the 68th minute. Cassetti tried an ambitious shot from a tight angle on the right side of the area following a deep Vydra cross which was deflected behind. Abdi took the set piece from the right and Ekstrand went to connect with his head, the ball appeared to strike his chest but it was still enough to take it past Legzdins and make it 2-0. Within five minutes though, Derby were given hope when referee Mark Haywood awarded them what looked a soft penalty for an apparent push at a corner but Ward made no mistake, slamming the shot down the centre of the goal to bring it back to 2-1. Just prior to that goal, Mason Bennett had replaced Sammon and then after the spot-kick Zola made his first change as Hogg came on for Geijo. The Hornets could have made the points safe with 11 minutes left when Anya was sent racing clear on the left but he failed to pick out Vydra after squaring across the area. However, Vydra managed to win it back and after poleaxing Keogh with one shot, Battocchio then tried a curler from the edge of the box which wasn’t too far wide. By the same token though, Derby were inches away from levelling when Ward slid in and only just failed to connect in the six-yard box with a Paul Coutts delivery which was fizzed in low from the right. Watford wasted another great counter-attacking opportunity with three minutes later when Abdi sent Hogg away into space down the left, he squared for Vydra, but the Czech international’s first touch was poor and the chance went begging. Vydra was replaced by Deeney for the closing stages but the Hornets were able to play most of the three minutes of injury time in the opposition half to make it three wins in succession and 13 points out of a possible in a very successful February.

Match Report; Bolton 4 -1 Hull

Hull dropped out of the automatic promotion places in the Championship after an early three-goal blitz from Bolton earned the hosts a 4-1 win at the Reebok Stadium. Darren Pratley grabbed the opener from close range, powering home a header after Chung-Yong Lee had picked him out with the cross . Lee was also involved in the next goal, the South Korea international playing the ball back to Mark Davies under pressure and he fired home from 20 yards, despite Tigers keeper David Stockdale getting a hand to the ball . Craig Dawson then made it 3-0 after just eight minutes, with the defender powering home a header despite the visitors' desperate attempts to scramble the ball off the line. Steve Bruce's side slowly improved after the break and manager's son Alex nodded a close-range header past the post after he had latched onto a Robbie Brady free-kick. Republic of Ireland international Brady then pulled a goal back midway through the second half with a whipped free-kick that went through the wall and found the bottom corner . But that proved to be brief respite for the visitors, with Dawson scoring his second of the afternoon as he flicked home via the post after latching onto Marcos Alonso's mishit shot .

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Leicester Land Spurs Striker

Harry Kane has joined Championship promotion contenders Leicester City on loan until the end of the season at the same time as penning a new Spurs contract until 2017. It will be the second Championship loan of the 19-year-old striker’s career so far after he spent a successful spell at Millwall last campaign. England Under-19 international Kane also had a spell at Norwich earlier this season but was troubled by injuries. He goes straight into Leicester’s squad for their match against Blackpool on Saturday.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ipswich 0-2 Watford

Watford kept the pressure on the Championship's top two with victory over strugglers Ipswich Town. Jonathan Hogg struck the Ipswich bar before Ikechi Anya finished a tidy move to give the visitors the lead. Town dug in and saw Michael Chopra's overhead kick saved before Tommy Smith had an effort ruled out for offside. The hosts continued to increase their foothold in the game but Nathaniel Chalobah's burst forward and finish was enough to see the Hornets home. Watford, chasing a return to the Premier League after a six-year absence, occasionally produced the slick passing and composure that has seen them win seven of their last 10 league games, while Town, unable to match their hosts for quality, displayed the grit and determination required for a Championship relegation fight.

Hull 2-0 Blackburn

Egyptian duo Gedo and Ahmed Elmohamady both struck as Hull City strengthened their automatic promotion charge against Blackburn Rovers. Gedo broke the deadlock by side-footing home Stephen Quinn's cross, his third goal in four games since signing on loan from Al Ahly. And Elmohamady sealed the points with a well-executed volley which gave Rovers keeper Jake Kean little chance. Blackburn's DJ Campbell mis-controlled from a great scoring position.Hull have won four of the last five league games and in Gedo and Elmohamady have found a potent scoring combination. Blackburn would have suffered a heavier defeat but for 22-year-old Kean, who produced excellent saves to deny David Meyler and Gedo before the latter scored in the 52nd minute. Robert Brady's corner fell to Stephen Quinn, whose fine cross into the middle allowed Gedo to side-foot back into the net. The busy Kean then produced another fine stop to deny Jack Hobbs from a corner before Hull establish added a second in the 67th minute. Brady's cross to the back post found Elmohamady who lashed the ball home first time to condemn Rovers to a first Championship defeat since 19 January.

Derby 1-1 Bolton

Jamie Ward's 10th goal of the season earned Derby a draw against Bolton. The striker tucked in a header from Michael Jacobs's cross nine minutes from time to bring the Rams level. It followed Richard Keogh's first-half own goal after he glanced in Jay Spearing's free-kick. Adam Bogdan saved Theo Robinson's close-range header late on as Derby secured a third draw in four matches with Bolton still searching for their first away win since November. Derby have won just one of their last seven Championship matches but Craig Bryson was close to putting them in front when he was off-target following Paul Coutts's cross.Bolton made the breakthrough in added time at the end of the first half when Spearing's inswinging free-kick from the right grazed the head of Keogh and the ball flew past the helpless Adam Legzdins. Bolton keeper Bogdan was called into action for the first time just before the hour mark. The Hungarian kept out Coutts's volley with a strong one-handed save low to his left.Bolton made the breakthrough in added time at the end of the first half when Spearing's inswinging free-kick from the right grazed the head of Keogh and the ball flew past the helpless Adam Legzdins. Bolton keeper Bogdan was called into action for the first time just before the hour mark. The Hungarian kept out Coutts's volley with a strong one-handed save low to his left.

Cardiff 0-2 Brighton

Cardiff City's lead at the top of the Championship is down to five points after Brighton's hard-earned 2-0 win. Midfielder Andrea Orlandi struck just before the interval to give the Seagulls a 1-0 half-time lead. Brighton's former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak produced a string of good saves in the first half. And Leonardo Ulloa scored a deflected goal in second-half added time to seal the victory for Brighton and boost their play-off bid.With main rivals Hull and Watford both winning, it was bad news all around for Cardiff manager Malky Mackay on his 41st birthday. Middlesbrough's draw at Burnley leaves Brighton two points outside the promotion play-off positions. Much of the pre-match publicity had surrounded the decision by Cardiff City's Malaysian owners to hand out red scarves to the Cardiff fans. But it was the points given away which will be of greater concern to the supporters, though they still have an eight-point cushion over Watford in the automatic promotion places. The Bluebirds went into the game unbeaten in nine matches, having won seven of those. And for much of the first half, they looked the more likely to take the lead as Brighton goalkeeper Kuszczak had to be on his toes to keep a clean sheet. Craig Noone had a chance in the 15th minute after a strong run by Andrew Taylor, but his delicate attempt was saved by the Pole.

Burnley 0-0 Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough's slump continued as they were held to a goalless draw at Burnley but Tony Mowbray's side remain in the play-off places in the Championship. Boro have won just once in the league in 2013 and needed some smart saves from goalkeeper Jason Steele to earn a point at Turf Moor. England Under-21 international Steele saved well from Charlie Austin and Dean Marney in the first half. Substitutes Mustapha Carayol and Curtis Main went close for Boro late on.Burnley, who are now seven points off the top six with a game in hand, saw Steele at full-stretch to turn Austin's first-time effort from the edge of the box behind in a bright start. Marney then saw his near-post header kept out by the alert Steele before Boro finally mounted some pressure after the break. Grant Leadbitter hit a low free-kick wide, Main put a snap-shot wide and Carayol gave Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant his first serious work of the evening in stoppage time with a swerving, dipping long-range strike that was tipped over. Boro are still in sixth place in the table, but are now just two points ahead of Brighton, who have a game in hand.

Birmingham 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Jack Butland's brilliant early save from defender Miguel Llera helped earn Birmingham a point against fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday. The England keeper, sold to Stoke last month but back at St Andrew's on loan until the summer, clawed out Llera's header from a Danny Pugh corner. Striker Nikola Zigic missed a great second-half chance for Blues. But neither side could break through, the draw ensuring both avoided slipping closer to the bottom three. Wednesday, who have lost only one of their last 11 league games, are two points clear of the drop zone. Butland's stop from Llera was crucial as Birmingham, who started and finished the night four points clear of the relegation zone, kept a first clean sheet in 18 league matches. But they might have been celebrating a victory had Zigic been more ruthless in front of goal.

Barnsley 2-1 Wolverhapton

David Flitcroft is targeting the teams above his Barnsley side after they moved out of the Championship relegation zone. The Reds overcame an early deficit thanks to second-half goals from Chris Dagnall and Jacob Mellis, which eclipsed Bjorn Sigurdarson's early strike and extended a remarkable run of form under Flitcroft. It was their eighth win out of nine and the sixth in a row in all competitions, and after looking dead and buried before Christmas Championship survival is now in their own hands. With the way they are playing 39-year-old Flitcroft, who has been in charge since mid-January, is eyeing a further rise up the table. "Getting out of the bottom three was the first objective I set," Flitcroft said. "Five or six wins on the spin and now we are out of it and we are looking up. "It is the teams above that start thinking they are safe around Christmas. "We have got the momentum. We keep applying more pressure on the bottom 10 and that is the aim."

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ipswich 1-0 Blackpool

Michael Chopra helped ease Ipswich's relegation fears as his second-half strike secured victory over Blackpool. Substitute Chopra fired in from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the season after good work by Guirane N'Daw. Tiago Gomes hit the post in the first half for the Seasiders with Ipswich goalkeeper Stephen Henderson turning away Alex Baptiste's goalbound cross. N'Daw also cleared Baptiste's header as Ipswich moved four points clear of the drop zone. The result condemned Blackpool caretaker-manager Steve Thompson to a fifth defeat in his seventh game in charge. Mick McCarthy's Ipswich, who had won only one of their previous six league games, secured back-to-back victories at Portman Road, while Blackpool remain six points clear of the bottom three after only two wins in 10 Championship matches.

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Bolton Wanderers

Billy Davies was denied a winning return to Nottingham Forest by a goal from Craig Davies, as Bolton clawed their way back from behind to claim a 1-1 draw at the City Ground. The Reds had produced a promising performance to mark the start of the Scotsman's second spell in charge at the club. But they could not make the most of numerous chances on an afternoon when Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan at times almost single-handedly held them at bay. Andy Reid looked as though he had done enough to secure three points for Forest when he swept home a trademark finish from the edge of the box in the 59th minute, to put his side ahead. But substitute Craig Davies popped up to spoil what had otherwise been an encouraging afternoon for the home side, with a simple finish in the 77th minute.

Birmingham City 0-4 Watford

Watford boosted their hopes of automatic promotion and moved back to third in the table with another excellent showing on their travels as they thrashed Birmingham City 4-0 at St Andrew’s. The Hornets were comfortably the more dangerous side in the first half and Troy Deeney, Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra all had opportunities to make the breakthrough before Deeney headed in an Ikechi Anya cross in the 38th minute. Anya then doubled the lead a minute before the break when after being given the freedom of the right side, he came inside and showed quick feet to fire past Jack Butland. The visitors had to withstand a few edgy moments at the start of the second half as the Blues sought a way back into the contest but 17 minutes after the restart the points were effectively sealed as Deeney tucked away his second at the end of the Hornets’ latest devastating counter-attacking move. It was left to Abdi to complete another very pleasing afternoon’s work when he fired home the fourth from the edge of the area with two minutes remaining as the Hornets made it nine wins on the road this season and sent their superb travelling 2,454-strong support home very happy. Gianfranco Zola made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace as the Hornets went into the game with their defensive resources somewhat stretched. Joel Ekstrand was still sidelined with a knee problem and he was joined in the treatment room by Tommie Hoban and Fitz Hall. This meant Marco Cassetti moved back into defence, alongside Nyron Nosworthy, who missed the last match as he was returning from international duty with Jamaica. Cassetti’s enforced change of position saw Anya come in at right wing-back, while Cristian Battocchio was preferred to Jonathan Hogg in the centre of the park. Birmingham also drew their last outing, 1-1 at Charlton Athletic, and boss Lee Clark made two changes to his line-up. Vicarage Road old boy and top scorer Marlon King was ruled out through injury, while Callum Reilly dropped to the bench. Their places went to the new-look strike partnership of Wes Thomas and Peter Lovenkrands, while another familiar face, Paul Robinson, was also in the starting line-up. Interestingly, Cassetti started on the left side of the central defensive trio but it was his team who had the first opening after a minute when Deeney latched on to a poor Morgaro Gomis pass and drove at the defence, beating Steven Caldwell on the outside but as the striker got to the by-line to the right of goal, he sliced a shot from an acute angle behind. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges and had the first on-target effort of the afternoon when Butland dropped to his right to hold an Anya drive from a Vydra pass after good work by Deeney, who had made a lively start against the team he supports. Birmingham’s first effort came in the 12th minute when Gomis fired harmlessly high and wide from distance. But six minutes later came perhaps one of least surprising outcomes of the match when Robinson was rightly booked for a late challenge on Abdi, leaving the Hornets favourite the prospect of coping with the pace of Anya for the next 70 or so minutes on a booking. Watford continued to be in the ascendency though, and Vydra had the next effort when he curled a right-footed shot over from 20 yards before the Czech striker saw another strike from outside the area deflected behind. From Abdi’s resultant corner on the left, the Hornets were inches away from taking the lead as Deeney glanced a downward header narrowly wide of the far post. Zola’s men went close again in the 25th minute when after some playing some neat keep ball near their left-hand corner flag, Battocchio spread a cross-field ball out to Anya. He took on and beat Robinson on the outside before laying the ball inside to Vydra, who hit a right-footed half-volley on the turn which was straight at Butland and the keeper managed to grab the ball at the second attempt as Deeney closed in. Chris Burke threatened to unhinge the Hornets backline when he attacked the right side of the penalty area and left Daniel Pudil on the ground but the winger’s low delivery was put behind for a corner. But Watford were soon testing Butland again as the England international did well to keep out a firmly struck Abdi shot from the left side of the area after Vydra had laid a Pudil ball from the left into the Swiss midfielder. Butland had to be alert again in the 33rd minute to deal with a Vydra free-kick from close to 30 yards, although the keeper was not unduly tested. However, Clark’s side then had a decent little spell which saw Nosworthy forced to head behind a dangerous Caldwell header and Manuel Almunia deal with an awkward free-kick before Thomas did well to cut back on his left foot on the edge of the area before curling a shot over. But the goal Watford had been threatening did arrive in the 38th minute and it would have given the scorer particular pleasure. Nathaniel Chalobah and Abdi combined in midfield and found Anya on the right and he delivered a pin-point cross for Deeney to rise and plant a header down and beyond Butland to make it 1-0 with his 13th of the campaign. Anya almost created another opening three minutes later when he was again picked out by Abdi in plenty of space but his delivery was too close to the Blues keeper on this occasion, although Deeney was again waiting to pounce. But Anya was to make no mistake the next time he received the ball a minute before the interval. The space the winger initially had after receiving Chalobah’s pass was bordering on the ridiculous but after coming inside and looking for an passing opportunity, he toyed with the Birmingham defence before showing quick feet and slamming a right-footed shot inside Butland’s near post to give the Hornets a two-goal cushion going into the break. Unsurprisingly, the home side were quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second half and it took some smart defensive work by Cassetti to prevent Lovenkrands from getting a clear head on the end of a Burke cross. The former Newcastle United man also had a shot block before a combination of Almunia and Nosworthy prevented him from getting on the end of a bouncing ball inside the six-yard box following more useful work by Burke. After Watford had temporarily eased the pressure by forcing two corners, the Blues won two of their own, the second of which came after Almunia failed to deal with the initial set piece and some more last-gasp defending deflected another Lovenkrands strike behind. The Hornets though, had been sloppy at times since the restart and they were fortunate not to be punished when the overlapping Paul Caddis was able to play in a low cross from the right which the stretching Thomas was inches away from connecting with. Watford were also not too far away soon after when, following a short corner on the left, Abdi struck a curling cross-cum-shot narrowly wide of Butland’s far post. Clark then decided to make his first change on the hour, bringing on Nathan Redmond for Rob Hall. In the 62nd minute though, came the latest example of the visitors’ sometimes supreme counter-attacking ability. The Hornets found themselves with the freedom of the opposition right when a Blues attack broke down and Robinson was caught upfield. Vydra the led charge and slipped in Anya to his right after he had made up plenty of ground to get up in support. The right midfielder then squared the ball across the area to Deeney, who tucked away his second of the afternoon high into the roof of the net to make it 3-0. Both sides made a change three minutes later as Adam Thompson came on for Pudil and Robinson’s tough afternoon was ended when he was replaced by Mitch Hancox. Watford were soon back on the attack though, with Vydra firing over from the left side of the area after being found by Lloyd Doyley, who was now operating as left wing-back following the substitution. The Blues weren’t too far away from a consolation in the 73rd minute when a Burke cross found Redmond in space at the far post and he headed down but the wrong side of Almunia’s right-hand upright. A limping Anya’s fine contribution then came to an enforced end when he had to make way for Sean Murray. To their credit, the hosts were still refusing to lie down though, and Curtis Davies wasn’t too far away with a low shot after popping up in the Hornets area. Lovenkrands was closer still when an outstretched leg somewhat inadvertently connected with the ball on the edge of the six-yard box after nobody had been able to get a head on a Burke cross, but Almunia was able to get across and make the save. Lovenkrands was booked for dissent after overly protesting when referee Craig Pawson refused to buy his appeals for a penalty after going down under Thompson’s strong challenge. Vydra made way for Hogg with six minutes remaining and four minutes later they made it 4-0. Battocchio nicked the ball away from Redmond in midfield and tried to play in Deeney but the ball ran to Abdi. His first shot was partially blocked and initially it looked like Battocchio would be able to round Butland and tuck the ball away. However, his follow-up was also blocked but only as far back as Abdi, who emphatically fired in his third goal in as many games from the edge of the area to round off another fine awayday.

Hull 1-0 Charlton

Gedo continued his impressive introduction to English football with the only goal of the game as Hull saw off Charlton to remain second in the Championship. The Egyptian, a deadline-day addition for the Tigers, scored as a substitute against Derby last time out and hit the target again on his full debut. The 33rd-minute winner was hardly a collector’s item, a scrambled close-range finish from a corner, but Hull were good value for three points in a match they largely dominated. The promotion-chasers came out aggressively, with Gedo’s compatriot Ahmed Elmohamady the favoured outlet on the right wing. He got to the byline in the third minute before cutting the ball across the six-yard box, where Michael Morrison got just enough on it to deflect it away from danger. Hull were inches away from the opener after seven minutes, Paul McShane’s cross finding David Meyler whose header was cleared off the line by Dale Stephens with keeper Ben Hamer beaten. Charlton began to settle and in the 20th minute Johnnie Jackson made a strong run towards the final third only to see his cross intercepted by Robbie Brady. Alex Bruce’s weak header allowed Stephens room to attack Hull through the middle but he was stopped dead by Meyler. Jackson’s left foot was looking Charlton’s best weapon, with a back-post cross and a teasing free-kick both causing awkward moments in the Hull box. But it was the hosts who took the lead in the 33rd minute after Gedo’s perseverance won a corner from the right. Brady delivered it, Hamer missed his punch and Gedo was on hand to bundle home from close range at the back post. Only a fine defensive header from Leon Cort prevented Hull making it two on the stroke of half-time, Brady and Stephen Quinn making space on the left before the ball made its way to Meyler at the edge of the box. The Irishman hit a fierce shot towards the centre of goal but Cort, against his former club, bravely got his head in the way. Just a minute had passed in the second half when Hull went close again. A Brady corner was again the cause but McShane produced an air-kick with the goal gaping. Hull were on the hunt for a second, Elmohamady giving Cedric Evina grief on the right and then drawing an unconvincing flap from Hamer. The home side’s Egyptian contingent grew to three when Ahmed Fathi replaced the injured McShane. But Hull’s rhythm was unaffected, Meyler stinging Hamer’s gloves with a half-volley and Gedo heading Elmohamady’s precision cross over. Charlton hit back on the counter in the 62nd minute, Chris Solly and Yann Kermorgant creating a shooting chance for Bradley Pritchard whose shot was low and wide. Pritchard’s chipped pass then handed Danny Haynes a chance from 12 yards but his first-time shot was straight at David Stockdale. Gedo missed out on a second when he ran the ball out attempting to round Hamer following Robert Koren’s weighted pass. Charlton almost stole an equaliser with five minutes left, Bradley Wright-Phillips teeing up fellow substitute Haynes for a near-post effort that was well kept out by Stockdale.

Cardiff City 2-1 Bristol City

Fraizer Campbell scored on his home debut as leaders Cardiff beat Bristol City to boost their promotion hopes. The striker broke through just before half-time to clip a rising shot into the top corner. Ex-Bluebirds goalkeeper Tom Heaton produced a string of impressive saves but Campbell struck again, controlling a long throw before shooting home. Late confusion in the home penalty area saw Ben Nugent put the ball into his own net but the hosts held on. Victory kept Cardiff eight points clear at the top of the table. Bristol City had won three of their last four games under new manager Sean O'Driscoll but remain in relegation danger, three points from safety and facing another tough trip to promotion-chasing Crystal Palace on Tuesday. The Robins were indebted to Heaton during a first half dominated by Cardiff, as the goalkeeper formed a sturdy last line of defence against his former employers. Craig Noone was the first to test Heaton, outpacing Brendan Moloney before seeing his shot pushed away. Craig Bellamy was the next to threaten as the Wales striker unleashed a 35-yard free-kick that needed a touch from the flying Heaton to help over the crossbar. Campbell, a £650,000 January capture from Sunderland, was also looking lively but Heaton again had to come to the Robins' rescue with a plunging stop. The keeper could only palm the ball out into the path of Nugent, but the young defender shot the bouncing rebound over the bar. Yet with the first half entering time added on, Heaton and the Robins' resistance was finally broken. Campbell combined incisively with Tommy Smith before unleashing a shot off the outside of his right boot that went into the far left corner of the net. Cardiff had a strong claim for a penalty waved away by the referee soon after the restart, when Campbell seemed to be tugged back by Liam Fontaine. Bristol City's goal threat had been sporadic but Liam Kelly nearly gave the relegation-threatened Robins a lifeline. Kelly spotted David Marshall too far off his line and produced a 30-yard lob that had the Scotland stopper back-peddling furiously, before watching the ball sail just over the bar. But Cardiff then doubled their lead when Campbell drifted off his markers to collect a long throw from Aron Gunnarsson, showing great control to bring the ball down and clip it past Heaton. That was Campbell's third goal in three games for his new club, suggesting the 25-year-old's capture is the final piece that will see Malky Mackay's side seal promotion to the Premier League. To their credit, Bristol City refused to let their heads drop and Marshall needed to make a smart save to prevent Steve Davies from finding the back of the net. Campbell was replaced by Heidar Helguson with 18 minutes remaining and left the pitch to a rousing ovation from the majority of the 25,586 fans. A late goal-mouth scramble at the Cardiff end saw the confusion end with Nugent nodding past his own keeper, but Cardiff rode out that last-minute nervousness to stretch their unbeaten league run to nine games.

Crystal Palace 4-1 Middlesbrough

Glenn Murray took his goals tally to 27 for the season with a brace as Crystal Palace maintained their promotion push by brushing aside Middlesbrough, whose midweek win over Leeds proved to be a false dawn. The former Brighton forward opened the scoring early on, but missed two more chances to complete a first-half hat-trick as Palace struggled to make their dominance count. However, just after the interval, Murray set up Peter Ramage to double his side’s advantage before the in-form striker’s spectacular drive and Kevin Phillips’ effort ensured Palace extended their unbeaten league run at Selhurst Park to 15 matches. Faris Haroun netted a late consolation when Boro were three down and the visitors are clinging on to the final npower Championship play-off place after a fifth consecutive away league defeat. Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray said: “We didn’t get started. “If we are looking for reasons, the amount we put in against Leeds in such a physical game (1-0 win on Tuesday) appears to have taken it out of some. “That appears to be the case. But there are no excuses. Individual errors cost us for the goals. “We knew they had talented forward players going forward. But my players are sitting there disappointed. “We lost four goals at Ipswich a few weeks ago. We can’t keep doing that. “We are still in the top six and our ambitions are to remain there. “We are capable of winning matches. We have to get back to our old form, but at the moment that seems a long way away. “Three of our back four are out at the moment, but we have to get on with it. Justin Hoyte, Jonathan Woodgate and Seb Hines are injured and we have to take it on the chin.”

Derby 0-0 Wolves

Dean Saunders' winless start to his managerial reign at Wolves was extended to six games in an uneventful goalless draw against Derby at Pride Park. The spectre of relegation continues to loom over Wanderers but they were a match for Saunders' former club, who still have an outside shot of making the play-offs. Reading loanee Kaspars Gorkss was handed his Wolves debut and looks set to be a useful addition to the squad, but Bakary Sako was undoubtedly the visitors' most potent threat. The hosts' line-up had more than a hint of youthfulness about it, with none of the starting XI over the age of 26. It was Wolves who looked the more sprightly in the early stages. Jamie O'Hara's strike was tipped away by Adam Legzdins and Sako's inswinging corner moments later found Danny Batth but his header drifted wide. Karl Henry's foul on Craig Bryson handed Derby a free-kick in a promising position, but Jamie Ward, who had scored in each of his previous three appearances, could only direct his shot into the hands of Carl Ikeme. There was time before the break for O'Hara to hit a well controlled shot just wide from 20 yards. It was around the hour mark when Wanderers threatened next, Sako's drilled effort forcing a strong save from Legzdins. At the other end, Paul Coutts' half-cleared corner was fired back with interest by Will Hughes but his strike cleared the crossbar. Ward appeared to shove Henry inside the penalty area in the final minute but referee Graham Salisbury was unmoved by the visitors' protests. Ward very nearly rubbed salt in the wound but his free-kick deep into stoppage time was kept out by Ikeme.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Paul Ince set for Blackpool job

Paul Ince looks set to be announced as the new Blackpool manager before the weekend after extensive meetings with chairman Karl Oyston Oyston is on the verge of announcing Ince as the new manager, bringing an end to the club's lengthy search for a successor to Michael Appleton, who became Blackburn manager five weeks ago. The hunt for a new manager has been extensive, with over 20 candidates being considered, but Ince appears the man to fill the hotseat at Bloomfield Road. The former England international spent six months with Championship rivals Blackburn in 2008, but the 45-year-old has been without a job since April 2011, when he parted company with Notts County. With son Tom at the club, Ince Snr has been attending a lot of Blackpool games this season, and would come into the role having already developed an opinion on how to improve the side. It is also understood that the former Liverpool and Manchester United star has agreed to keep current caretaker manager Steve Thompson at the club as his assistant manager. The Tangerines are currently 14th in the table, 10 points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough and will be keen to maintain their bid for a play-off place.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Mark Robins set for Huddersfield job

Mark Robins is expected to be named as Huddersfield Town boss today, taking charge of his first game against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fifth round tie on Sunday.The former Manchester United striker was given permission by League One Coventry City to talk to the Championship strugglers Huddersfield.The Terriers have been without a manager since Simon Grayson was sacked at the end of January, following a run of 12 matches without a win.Since Grayson's departure, Mark Lillis has been in caretaker charge, guiding the side to a win and a draw in the league, and into the fifth round of the FA Cup. Robins has only been at Coventry since September 9, but in that time has led them out of the League One relegation zone and into play-off contention. The Sky Blues rejected an initial approach from the Terriers, but the former Rotherham and Barnsley boss made it clear he was interested in talking to the Championship side. Robins has been in demand, and it was believed that Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool were keen on appointing him as their manager, with Coventry stating that "more than one club" had shown an interest in the 43-year-old. Talks are believed to be taking place immediately but Sky Blues chief executive Tim Fisher is hopeful of keeping Robins. Fisher said: "We are just hoping that when he weighs up his options and opportunities, he will see the great progress to date and the support he has from fans and management alike, coupled with the potential in Coventry, and decide to stay."

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Brighton 1-1 Blackburn Rovers

A second half Vicente penalty helped Brighton secure a point at home to Blackburn in the Championship. Rovers took the lead with a powerful header from Scott Dann in a first half otherwise dominated by Brighton. Martin Olsson was adjudged to have handled a Vicente cross after the break, giving the Brighton winger the chance to equalise from the spot. Neither side could seal three points, with Kazenga LuaLua the closest to getting the winner. It was the second 1-1 draw between the two sides within three weeks, and the result, together with Middlesbrough's win over Leeds, leaves Brighton and Blackburn further adrift of the play-off places. The two sides exchanged chances in an exciting opening spell, with Dean Hammond and Leonardo Ulloa going close for Brighton within the first 60 seconds. Vicente and Will Buckley could also have given Brighton the lead, while the visitors saw both DJ Campbell and Bruno Saltor shoot narrowly wide, all before 12 minutes were on the clock. The hosts continued to dominate until, against the run of play, Dann rose to head home a Danny Murphy corner to give Blackburn the lead. Brighton still had the upper hand, and Dean Hammond had two chances in quick succession in stoppage time, forcing Jake Kean into a fine block before heading straight at the Blackburn keeper. The home side drew level 12 minutes into the second half when the assistant referee flagged for a penalty for handball against Olsson. Following protests from Blackburn, Vicente stepped up to drill the ball straight down the middle. Chances were few and far between following the equaliser, with LuaLua wasting the best chance for the home side deep into stoppage time.

Hull 2-1 Derby

Ahmed Elmohamady's late header snatched three points to send Hull second in the Championship and deny stubborn Derby. After a poor first-half display, Hull took the lead shortly after the break when substitute Gedo headed home with just his second touch of the ball. Jamie Ward punished goalkeeper David Stockdale's mistake to put the visitors level with six minutes remaining. But Elmohamady fired in from a corner before Derby's Gareth Roberts was sent off for a lunge on Nick Proschwitz. It was a miserable end to an evening that began promisingly for a Derby side that enjoyed the better of the early exchanges. They could not make their pressure count through as Conor Sammon poked wide and a last-ditch tackle by Jack Hobbs barred Ward's way to goal. City sparked into life as the half ended with Stephen Quinn's near-post header skimming just wide of Adam Legzdins' right-hand post. Egypt international Gedo's header was more precise as he nodded Robbie Brady's delivery back across the Derby goalkeeper for the opener. The Egyptian came close to a second with a volley just over, but Derby pressed forward and Sammon thumped the underside of the bar before almost inadvertently turning in Ward's effort. Ward's industry was rewarded when Stockdale spilled Craig Bryson's cross to gift him a simple tap-in. But Derby were again undone in the air as Elmohamady converted from another Brady delivery before Roberts was dismissed and Proschwitz picked himself up to miss a fine chance to make the game safe.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Leeds

Neil Warnock faced calls for his head as Curtis Main claimed a dramatic late winner. Middlesbrough stole the points as Main sent a looping header past Paddy Kenny from Ishmael Miller’s raking cross eight minutes from time to end a five-game winless run. It left Leeds further off the play-off pace after an undeserved defeat – as 2,000 travelling fans left the Elland Road boss in little doubt as to their feelings by chanting ‘Warnock, time to go’. In a dramatic finale, there was still time for Main to earn a second yellow card for time wasting, as sub Habib Habibou forced a stunning last-minute save from Jason Steele to give Boro a vital three points. Warnock’s men must now pick themselves up for Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Man City. Jonathan Woodgate kept Boro on level terms before the break with a cool goal-line clearance to deny Ross McCormack after keeper Jason Steele slipped in his attempt to clear a dangerous throughball. The first 45 mintues was dominated by Warnock’s men and David Norris twice went close. Luke Varney’s shot from 20 yards then had Steele scrambling to his left to cover, as Boro were left to rue an early miss from Rhys Williams. It took Boro 45 minutes to muster a serious threat on goal but Paddy Kenny ensured Leeds were not caught out in first-half stoppage time. Faris Haroun burst through on goal after some great work from Chelsea loan star Josh McEachran but Kenny was out at the striker’s feet in a flash to block. Chances dried up after the break but Leadbitter floated a free-kick inches wide after Williams was upended on the edge of the box as Boro took control in the last 20 minutes. It almost led to a winner - but Leeds escaped. Morison should have won it for Leeds with 14 minutes left but headed straight at keeper Steele.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Huddersfield Town 0 Cardiff City 0

Cardiff dropped points for only the second time in eight npower Championship games as managerless Huddersfield battled for a deserved and hard-fought point in a goalless draw at the John Smith's Stadium. Leaders Cardiff began the day 10 points clear at the top of the table and after their shock home defeat to Peterborough in mid-December had won six and drawn one of their subsequent seven matches. But Huddersfield, for whom joint caretaker managers Mark Lillis and Steve Eyre were taking charge of their fourth game following the sacking of Simon Grayson, were in no mood to be rolled over. They were worthy of their point despite riding their luck when Cardiff defender Matthew Connolly hit the post in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Joel Lynch made his first start since New Year's Day in central defence for Huddersfield and striker Sean Scannell was recalled, while Kevin McNaughton replaced Ben Turner at right-back for Cardiff. Neither side produced a shot on goal in a cagey opening quarter of an hour before Huddersfield striker James Vaughan headed wide from six yards. Cardiff defender Mark Hudson was off target with a header from similar distance at the other end and home midfielder Oliver Norwood fired a 25-yard free-kick over the crossbar. Huddersfield took the game to the leaders and had a goal disallowed midway through the first half when Vaughan hooked the ball home from a corner only for referee Mark Brown to rule Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall had been fouled. The visitors enjoyed their best spell as half-time approached and Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies, captain for the day in the absence of Peter Clarke, was forced into a full-length save to turn away Craig Bellamy's 25-yard free-kick. Cardiff almost snatched the lead in time added on at the end of the first half when centre-half Matthew Connolly crashed a shot from the right edge of the penalty area against the post. The Welshmen were then dealt an injury blow as McNaughton required medical treatment after a heavy challenge and he was replaced during the interval by Ben Nugent. Cardiff began to get on top early in the second period and Bellamy fired an angled left-footed shot just wide in the 60th minute. Smithies then fumbled an effort from Craig Conway and Nugent headed the subsequent corner the wrong side of the post as Huddersfield were forced on to the back foot. The home side failed to threaten Marshall in Cardiff's goal, but continued to harry their opponents, who also found clear-cut chances hard to come by. Bellamy smashed a free-kick from the edge of the area into the wall with three minutes remaining to end a frustrating afternoon for the Welshmen, while Huddersfield were given a standing ovation by most in a crowd of 15,265 after an entertaining stalemate.

Bolton 2-1 Burnley

Craig Davies and David Ngog came off the bench to turn a Lancashire derby on its head and hand Bolton three much-needed points in a 2-1 success against Burnley. Following a goalless first-half of few chances, Burnley looked set to claim local bragging rights from the second time this season following David Edgar's close-range finish in the 55th minute. It prompted Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman to introduce strike pairing Davies and Ngog, initially to howls of derision from the Reebok Stadium faithful who were unhappy to see Marvin Sordell and lively winger Steve De Ridder withdrawn. But the switch proved to be inspired as Davies headed his first goal since joining from Barnsley last month before Ngog sealed the Trotters' maiden league triumph of 2013 nine minutes from time. Freedman's men climb to 16th in the npower Championship table, although they remain three points above the relegation zone, while Burnley slip behind bitter rivals Blackburn into eighth, four points shy of the play-offs. The Clarets made an enterprising start and Bolton had Darren Pratley to thank for keeping the game goalless in the 17th minute. Ross Wallace - fresh from signing a contract extension at Burnley this week - collected Dean Marney's return backheel from a cleverly-worked short corner to drive across the face of goal, but Wales international Pratley hacked clear. Craig Dawson had the two best chances of the half on his Bolton debut. He headed Jay Spearing's outswinging corner narrowly wide at the back post before from another set-piece saw the on-loan defender force the half's only meaningful save from Lee Grant. Given the predominant method of creating chances in the match, it was somewhat inevitable when Burnley went ahead from a 55th minute corner. Wallace hung up a cross to the back post where McCann towered above the Bolton defence to nod back across goal and leave Edgar with a simple nodded finish. Then came Freedman's ill-received changes that would send a sceptical Reebok crowd into raptures. In the 66th minute, Lee Chung-Yong engineered room to swing a ball in from the left and Davies glanced beyond Grant via the underside of the crossbar. An from another corner Kevin Davies - another substitute - made a customary nuisance of himself, and Burnley were unable to fully clear. Spearing drove back towards goal where Ngog stole in front of Burnley full-back Danny Lafferty to turn the ball home.

Leeds owners reject takeover bid

Leeds United's owners GFH Capital have confirmed they have turned down a bid by an undisclosed party to buy a controlling stake in the club. It has been reported that a Yorkshire-based consortium made an offer for a 51 per cent share of the npower Championship side with a view to securing a phased buy-out. The identities of the consortium members have not been disclosed. "We are aware of growing speculation regarding new investment at Leeds United," GFH Capital said in a statement on Leeds' official website. "As can be expected with a club as fantastic as Leeds United, since our acquisition we have received several offers to invest in the club alongside us. "The most recent offer was for a majority stake and has not been accepted. "Although we continue to seek strategic investors, we will only bring on board those who we feel can make a positive contribution to the sustainable success of Leeds United." GFH Capital, a Dubai-based investment bank, completed their takeover of Leeds from Ken Bates in December. Former Hull chairman Adam Pearson indicated earlier this week that he would like to return to football and gave Leeds as an example of a club he would be interested in. Pearson, the current owner of rugby league side Hull FC, was the commercial director of Leeds for six years before he left the position in 2001. However, it is not known if he is part of the consortium involved in this latest offer.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sheffield Wednesday 2-2 Derby County

Leroy Lita continued to prove his worth to Sheffield Wednesday by helping them fight back from two goals down to earn a point against Derby at Hillsborough. Lita, on loan from Swansea, kick-started the Owls’ revival by tapping in from close range to take his tally to three in three following his move from south Wales after Derby had surged into a 2-0 lead. The Rams opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Jeff Hendrick finished a nice passing move by firing low past Chris Kirkland and Jamie Ward doubled the lead from the spot following Miguel Llera’s foul soon after the restart. But after Lita’s lifeline, Llera atoned for his misdemeanour by heading Wednesday level from good work by Michail Antonio in the 57th minute. Wednesday looked the most likely to go on and win it as debutant Connor Wickham was denied by a good save by Adam Legzdins, but they had to settle for a point which extends their unbeaten run to five npower Championship games. Nigel Clough’s men are also enjoying some good form, unbeaten in four, though they have slipped off the play-off pace. They arrived at Hillsborough without a win in their last three away games but they showed no signs of travel sickness and they settled well. Ward, a former favourite across the city at Sheffield United, brought a low save out of Kirkland very early on, with the Owls keeper palming away a skidding effort well. But Derby were not deterred and went ahead midway through the first half. A fine passing move ended with Hendrick playing a one-two with Ward on the edge of the area and slamming a low shot into the corner, with Kirkland only able to get a hand on it. Dave Jones’ side were unable to show any of the fervour they displayed in despatching Brighton last week, though the home fans were given something to cheer as Friday’s loan signing Wickham made his debut from the bench following an injury to Keiran Lee. Top scorer Antonio tried to inspire his side with a speculative effort from distance, but Legzdins had no problems keeping it out as Derby saw out the first half with ease. And three minutes after the restart they strengthened their position following Llera’s foul on Ward and the striker dusted himself off and doubled the Rams’ lead from the spot. But that stirred the hosts into action and they got themselves back in it three minutes later when Lita netted by reacting first to a loose ball from a corner. The momentum of the game had totally shifted and the rampant hosts levelled in the 56th minute. Antonio got the ball on the right, jinked away from his marker and sent a pinpoint cross for Llera to head home in front of the Kop. Wednesday sensed a winner could be on the cards, with Wickham and David Prutton both going close but it ended all square.

Brighton 1-0 Hull

Former Spain international Vicente fired Brighton to within two points of the play-offs after a 1-0 win over Hull, who missed the chance to go second. The 31-year-old midfielder has struggled with a constant stream of injuries since Seagulls boss Gus Poyet persuaded him to move to the south coast 18 months ago after 11 years with Valencia. But when he does get on the pitch, Vicente is a class act and he proved it by climbing off the bench to grab Brighton's 83rd-minute winner with a free-kick. Hull needed only a point to climb into the automatic play-off spots and would have grabbed all three themselves but for some fine second-half saves from Tomasz Kuszczak. Tigers goalkeeper David Stockdale was also busy in a first half dominated by Brighton. Spanish full-back Bruno linked up well with Craig Mackail-Smith to tee up Dani Lopez for a shot which Stockdale got down well to palm away at full stretch. Hull showed more attacking ambition after the break and Brighton's on-loan Stoke defender Matt Upson had to make a brave defensive header to stop Jack Hobbs getting on the end of Ahmed Elmohamady's dangerous cross. Jay Simpson headed a Robbie Brady cross wide at the near post and Robert Koren prodded Stephen Quinn's centre over the crossbar. David Meyler should have done better with another inviting cross from Brady but he sidefooted his effort across goal and wide. Vicente's arrival sparked Brighton into life and they should have gone ahead in the 67th minute when the substitute's superb reverse pass sent Wayne Bridge to the byline. Bridge crossed towards Ulloa and the ball was only half-cleared to Andrea Orlandi as he arrived in the area, but the former Swansea midfielder's composure deserted him as he blazed over the top. Brady almost conjured up a stunning goal for Hull but Kuszczak got his fingertips to the dipping, 30-yard strike. Kuszczak made another superb save to keep out Elmohamady's low drive in the 79th minute. And the Pole's intervention proved pivotal four minutes later when Orlandi was tripped on the edge of the area. Vicente stepped up and slammed a low free-kick past the wall, under the body of the diving Stockade and into the net to secure three valuable points for the play-off hopefuls.

Blackpool 2-1 Millwall

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett bemoaned his side's defending after they allowed a a 1-0 lead to turn into defeat at Blackpool. On-loan striker Nathan Delfouneso was the match-winner for the Seasiders in stoppage time, after Thomas Ince had cancelled out James Henry's opener. Jackett said: "I'm very frustrated and disappointed with both the goals defensively. "Over a period of maybe 10 games we've given away too many goals with not enough clean sheets. "We've given two goals away again. Every game we have not had zeros against us enough. "You have to come through those periods of pressure and make sure you don't concede and we didn't do that well enough. "I felt going forward we probably had more clear-cut chances than we have in a while without necessarily putting them away. "It was tough from us to get a decision from the referee and the linesman throughout the game, but that's how it is for us away from home. "It hurts the players and myself as manager to have lost four games on the spin. Whatever the details of the game are, there's a line there and that's winning and losing."

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

McLeish leaves Nottingham Forest

Alex McLeish has left his role as Nottingham Forest manager by mutual consent, the npower Championship club have confirmed. Recent reports speculated that McLeish was considering his future at the City Ground after little over a month at the helm. The Scot was left frustrated after missing out on several transfer targets last month - most notably Peterborough winger George Boyd whose move to the east midlands was scuppered by a failed eye test. And a bad week for McLeish was capped on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at his former club Birmingham, where both Blues goals were scored by another player he tried to sign - Chris Burke. It is thought the reason behind McLeish's decision to leave Forest is interference from the club's Kuwaiti owners, the Al-Hasawi family, in team affairs. McLeish, who replaced Sean O'Driscoll as manager on December 27, said via a statement on the club's official website: "I am extremely saddened to be leaving after such a short period. "But even so, it has been a privilege to be manager of such a fantastic football club and I want to thank the players, staff and fans for their support and wish Nottingham Forest the best of fortunes ahead. "Both parties entered into the relationship in good faith, however, there was a difference in the understanding of the development strategy of the football club and it was felt by both parties that we should part company."

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Warnock points finger at ref

Leeds manager Neil Warnock claimed his side should have had two penalties in their 1-0 defeat to Cardiff. The Whites went down to Frazier Campbell's second-half effort and Warnock accused referee Mike Dean of being in a bad position when Cardiff captain Mark Hudson appeared to handle the ball. "It is a cruel game sometimes. Everything about this match was cruel," he said. "We missed open goals and the young lad (Byram) made a schoolboy error. I thought Mike Dean was brilliant but he didn't see the handball, when we all appealed, because he was in a bad position and should have been in a better one. "He had three or four bodies in the way. The linesman could have helped him out, but they don't, do they. Then there was another handball in the 93rd minute that wasn't given. "Our two centre-halves were magnificent, we played some good stuff against the top-of-the-table team and were better than them, so it's very frustrating that we got nothing."

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Bolton 1-1 Millwall

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett declared himself pleased with his side's performance as they held Bolton to a 1-1 draw at the Reebok. Lions striker Andy Keogh won a penalty and delicately placed the ball past Adam Bogdan, but Keith Andrews managed to equalise from another spot-kick later in the first half. He said: "We had a bit of a threat on the break but overall we have got four points out of six against Bolton which is great against a team that have come down from the Premier League. "The first half we played well and caused Bolton problems. In the second half it was a rear-guard action from us and we defended well for long periods. "In terms of the table and where it leaves us we are still in there with a shout." It was also Republic of Ireland international Keogh's first game since he broke his toe and Jackett was delighted with his return and he was also impressed with debutant Martyn Woolford's performance. He said "I think Andy is a key player for us and I thought he played very well today. "Him and Danny N'Guessan up front gives us a lot of pace on the counter, which you need to take advantage of when you play a team which try to get on top of you like Bolton do." He added: "I was pleased with Walford's first game because he gave us balance on the left hand side and he had a great strike in the first half where he nearly scored as well."

Cardiff City 0-0 Ipswich Town

Cardiff boss Malky Mackay was in positive mood despite the 0-0 draw against Ipswich, which was the first time they've failed to score this season. Their opponents were well organised and could have snatched a win through Guirane N'Daw's curling effort that hit the woodwork. Despite that, Cardiff stretched their lead at the top of the Championship to eight points. Mackay said: "We were playing against a team who are right at the top of the form table with a new manager and some new players coming in. They'd only lost two in 10 so if we had not worked as hard as them then we'd have been beaten. "For us to come out with another clean sheet, our fourth in five games, on the back of 13 points out of 15 I'm delighted. "I think you can always hope you can create more chances. We created 20 attempts on their goal but it is the clinical nature of that final pass that was missing. "The conditions were pretty poor in terms of the wind and the rain and I think both sides struggled with that at times." It took Cardiff 27 minutes to create a real chance, Mark Hudson missing the first of two first-half headers in a match short on quality. Craig Bellamy and Aron Gunnarsson both had second-half chances to extend Cardiff's lead at the top of the table but couldn't find a way through.

Bristol City 0-4 Leicester

Chris Wood fired in a first-half hat-trick as Leicester secured an easy 4-0 win at Ashton Gate to send Bristol City to the foot of the npower Championship. The former Robins loanee made it nine from his last five games and six in three since joining the Foxes from West Brom. Most of the damage was done before the break, inflicted by a combination of Ben Marshall, home goalkeeper Dean Gerken and the unstoppable Wood. Marshall provided the ammunition for the first two goals, though Gerken will have to shoulder the blame for the second as he flapped at an 18th-minute corner. And Gerken looked culpable again when Wood's long-range shot crept under his body four minutes before the interval, taking the striker's tally for the season to 17. Matty James added the fourth to compound the woes of Derek McInnes, whose side now prop up the pile following Barnsley's victory over Leeds. It took just 11 minutes for the visitors to get off the mark. Marshall played a precise pass down the left flank, Wood controlled, cut inside and drove home. The visitors forced a corner seven minutes later and capitalised on some poor goalkeeping from Gerken, who tried to punch it clear but failed to make sufficient contact, and Wood tapped in the loose ball. McInnes' shellshocked side struggled to muster any meaningful response as Pearson's men continued to control proceedings. And they were rewarded with a third goal just before half-time. Wood unleashed a shot from 20 yards and though Gerken got across his goal to cover it, the ball squirmed under his body. Things got even worse for the hosts early in the second half. They sloppily conceded possession inside their own half, James took full advantage, advancing to within striking distance to pick out the bottom-right corner for his first goal since August.

Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace

Burnley boss Sean Dyche hailed his side's "excellent" play as they edged past Crystal Palace 1-0 at Turf Moor. Junior Stanislas marked his first start since November by scoring the only goal of the game with a brilliant strike into the top corner from outside the box with nine minutes to go. The Clarets survived a late scare as Lee Grant got down brilliantly to turn the ball away after Jason Shackell had diverted Jonathan Parr's cross towards his own goal and Mile Jedinak hit the crossbar in stoppage time, but Dyche's side held on. He said: "I thought our football was excellent but it was a tight game and we did well to win it. "We asked the players to give a lot in their performances and they did that once again. "I am sure Ian Holloway will argue that Palace should have got something from the game and if you isolate the second half maybe he is right, but over the 90 minutes I think we deserved to win. "We scored a fantastic goal and I am delighted for Junior, but the whole team worked hard for it. "Football is swings and roundabouts and I think we have been hard done by at times but when we apply ourselves then we don't have to worry about silly decisions and we can challenge anyone in the league. "We need to improve our consistency now and see if we can get more wins on the board. If we can do that then who knows where it could take us."

Middlesbrough 1-2 Watford

Scott McDonald's injury-time goal was not enough for Middlesbrough as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Watford. Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra, signed on loan by Gianfranco Zola from Italian side Udinese in the summer, fired home in time added on at the end of the first half and struck his second in the 83rd minute. Scott McDonald headed home a consolation for Boro in the third minute of stoppage time but it wasn't enough to prevent Tony Mowbray's side from losing for only the second time in their last 10 outings at the Riverside. Defenders Seb Hines and George Friend, midfielders Josh McEachran and Faris Haroun, plus strikers Scott McDonald, Emmanuel Ledesma and Lukas Jutkiewicz all returned to Middlesbrough's starting line-up, and as a result, Boro took time to adjust, despite making all the running. Ledesma's 30-yard effort in the second minute warmed Almunia's hands and Jutkiewicz's shot from inside the penalty area was blocked by Watford defender Joel Ekstrand. Friend then blasted the subsequent corner over the bar. Hines then blazed his shot from six yards off target from Grant Leadbitter's corner as Boro did everything bar score in the opening half an hour. But Watford scored with their first shot on target. Vydra pounced on a loose ball in first-half injury time before firing a drilled left-footed shot into the bottom corner. Reach (twice), Ledesma and Faroun all tried their luck from outside the area, the latter's superbly held by Almunia before Boro boss Mowbray sent on Ishmael Miller for Jutkiewicz in the 69th minute. But Watford doubled their advantage when Vydra steered home his second in the 83rd minute, taking Abdi's cross from the left in his stride to bury another finish into the bottom corner. McDonald headed home Reach's cross in the 93rd minute, but it was a mere consolation.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Kelly completes Bristol City move

Liam Kelly has joined Bristol City for an undisclosed fee after passing a medical. Kilmarnock accepted an undisclosed bid for the midfielder on Thursday and Kelly passed a medical later that day, meaning the move is now only subject to international clearance. The 22-year-old has made over 100 appearances for Killie and won the Scottish League Cup there. Manager Derek McInnes told the Robins' official website: "He has accumulated quite a lot of games and experience in the Scottish Premier League and has been a key player for Kilmarnock over the last few seasons. "He has amassed quite a lot of Under-21 games for Scotland and is now involved in the full senior squad as well. "Liam is someone we think will only get better. He gets around the pitch, utilises the ball well and takes responsibility for his position." Kelly added: "I'm pleased to be signing for a fantastic club. "I've been in England before with MK Dons, served my apprenticeship and then moved to Kilmarnock for four seasons. "It's a big step to take (to come to Bristol City) but one I'm looking forward to. I can't wait to get going now and get training with the lads."