Seny Dieng was outstanding for Middlesbrough as they stunned Leicester City, Watford fired five past Rotherham to see Matt Taylor sacked and Brook Norton-Cuffy delivered for Joe Edwards in his first in charge of Millwall. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...
TEAM OF THE ROUND
Our biggest Championship winners in round 16 were Watford, who smashed Rotherham 5-0 at Vicarage Road. Whether or not this was the straw that broke the camel's back and led to Rotherham ownership parting company with Matt Taylor we'll probably never know, but the thrashing turned out to be his last game in charge. The Hornets were two up by half time with Ken Sema setting up Mileta Rajovic for both and things went from good to better as they added another three second half goals to punish The Millers.
Does this mean Watford are worth keeping an eye on now? Well I'm still a little conflicted about that in spite of a lot of positive signs. They are a year two parachute team so competing at the top should be the bare minimum, but Watford are six matches unbeaten and five points off the play-off spots.
On the negative side of the ledger they have only won once away from home so far this season and three of their five wins have come at home against the current bottom three. With all of that being said I'll plead the fifth on Watford, they face four of the current top five in their first six games back after the international break so maybe I'll have a better answer then!
PLAYER OF THE ROUND
Seny Dieng (Middlesbrough)
Two rounds ago when Leicester took on Leeds at the King Power, there was a sense going into the game that things could really be done and dusted if it went for the Foxes. A win over Leeds would have put Leicester 17 points clear of them and even though the Championship can throw up its fair share of surprises, it would've been hard to see them letting slip an advantage like that. A Leeds win in that huge head to head meant the potential 17 point advantage didn't materialise and the gap closed further this round as Leicester were defeated 1-0 up at Middlesbrough.
A beautiful Sam Greenwood free-kick won the game, but perhaps the key performance was from Boro keeper Seny Dieng, with a string of saves forming the platform to go ahead and steal the points.
Dieng's clean sheet was his fourth of the season and it says a lot about his and Boro's form that all four have come in his last seven games as Michael Carrick's side have really kicked into gear. The other sides in the top four will all have toasted Dieng's performance as Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton all won, with Ipswich moving level, Leeds closing to within eight points and Southampton nine.
Yes, Leicester have still had a formidable start and are strong promotion favourites, but thanks to work of Dieng and Middlesbrough we'll spend our international break with a far more open minded outlook on the Championship promotion race than we might otherwise have.
My car is getting on a bit now and I've got to confess it's been giving me a bit of grief in the cold weather these past few weeks. Once it gets going it's absolutely fine and handles exactly as it should but it's that first bit, firing up and getting off the drive that's causing me the most anxiety. Obviously you don't care about my car and why should you, but its struggles to get moving each morning are a reasonable metaphor for Coventry City's entire season so far.
Very much like my car, you'd imagine that once this Sky Blues squad and manager are up and running and on the open road then they'll be cruising along like they were last season, but the spluttering on the driveway has now gone on an entire third of the season.
To keep up the Coventry car metaphors a little longer there were a couple of vital parts of the engine replaced in summer with the sales of Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer, but it looked like the repair work that had been done was certainly to a decent standard. Unfortunately the replacement parts have been misfiring and the presence of Coventry's two summer striker signings towards the top of the 'Big Chances Missed' charts is revealing.
It did look for a fleeting moment that Coventry were starting their engines and getting going with back to back wins as September turned to October, unfortunately that brief surge has been followed by six games without a win and the Sky Blues failed to score in four of those games. Even though I keep getting it wrong I am still fairly confident that Mark Robins will get things moving in the end at Coventry, I have to say though that the car has been spluttering on the driveway a lot longer than I had expected.
LOANEE OF THE ROUND
If ever a goal told a thousand stories it was Brook Norton-Cuffy's for Millwall at Sheffield Wednesday this past weekend. In isolation it was a well taken effort by the Arsenal loanee, slipping through an admittedly flaky tackle and then swerving and finishing accurately into the far corner. There is much more to it than that from a Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday perspective and the booing that rang around Hillsborough as the ball hit the net adequately sums up the frustrations of the Wednesday fans.
The goal was the stamp on another dreadful result in a dreadful season that has the Owls already nine points adrift at the bottom of the table with only a single win from their first sixteen games.
Conversely from a Millwall point of view this was the dream scenario as the goal wrapped up a 4-0 win on the debut of new manager Joe Edwards. It had taken the higher ups at The Den a while to make the move and given that Edwards was managing his first ever game at senior club level, not even the most optimistic of Millwall fans would have had grounds to forecast such a perfect day.
Finally there's the significance of the identity of the scorer, Norton-Cuffy is a young loanee and Joe Edwards' CV is dripping with evidence of developing young players at Chelsea and with England U20s. It's a small sample size but things look very positive for Millwall and the pathway for their current and potential future young talent.
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