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Championship review: Keeper Wilson stunner; Leeds whiz Gelhardt growing at Sunderland; Cardiff find survival hope

Goalkeeper Ben Wilson earned Coventry what could be a decisive point, Sheffield United strengthened their automatic promotion chances and Cardiff clinched a vital win in the relegation battle. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Cardiff City

It's a red hot relegation battle to stay in the Championship and the big winners of the midweek round were Cardiff City. I say they were the big winners, assuming Wigan's win right at the bottom won't ultimately mean anything then Cardiff weren't just the big winners, they were the only winners. The Bluebirds went to Watford and despite going a goal down after 11 minutes went in at half time 3-1 up. There is probably a lot of truth in Watford boss Chris Wilder's post game interview putting the Cardiff comeback down to tactical indiscipline from his players, but you have to commend Cardiff's resilience.

In typical fashion for the Championship, as soon as I'd got enthusiastic about Cardiff surviving a month or so ago, things took a turn for the worse with other rivals starting to win at the same point as Cardiff stopped. Stoke City visit Cardiff on Saturday and then it gets very interesting as, in back to back games we get the Rotherham rain rematch and a giant head to head with Huddersfield in round 45.

Cardiff fans will certainly want the points on the board across those next three games given on the final day they travel to Champions Burnley, who may be playing to secure a magical 100 point total up at Turf Moor. When you look at what's coming up, these three points against Watford seem all the more vital.


Ben Wilson (Coventry City)

It's the division that keeps on giving, so of course we got a stoppage time equaliser from a goalkeeper in the key play-off head to head game this midweek! The game was Blackburn v Coventry, the keeper was Ben Wilson and if things are still as close when the final table is decided, this could be an utterly defining moment.

The stakes were already sky high for the Sky Blues' visit to Ewood Park with Blackburn just inside and Coventry just outside the play-off spots, if there was a winner in this game then that side would go into the weekend inside the top six. Sam Gallagher's lovely guided headed had given Rovers the lead and it was left to Coventry keeper Ben Wilson to bundle the ball over the line deep into stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.

I'll steer clear of the very partisan handball conversation that's currently going on between the two sets of fans and try and analyse the impact of the goal. In the season nobody seems to want to grab that fifth or sixth place spot, the fact another win and another point disappeared out the league table is fairly typical. Of the eight teams between fifth and 12th place, only West Brom were able to win in midweek and the idea that someone sneaks in with a lower than normal points total is getting more and more realistic.

Blackburn do still hold a game in hand on most sides up there so the goal is maybe more decisive in slowing Rovers down, but for Coventry it keeps them in the conversation. Time will just tell how decisive a moment it really was.


The Sheffield United slip that never happened!

We already knew the margins were wafer thin in terms of the second automatic place, Sheffield United looked formidable favourites and I think we can now double down on that position. Many people will focus on Luton dropping points at Reading and Middlesbrough's three game winless run, but the truth is the Blades just haven't allowed their challengers any more than a sniff of that automatic spot.

The idea of Sheffield United opening up the door has been a bit of a myth when we look at it. Excitement for a race for second place grew when Middlesbrough went to Bramall Lane and won in mid-February, the Boro surge plus FA Cup distractions for United and a splurge of four defeats in six really gave the idea that momentum could be with the Teesside team and there might be enough room for Luton to join the party too.

The mathematical reality of the situation is that past 12 games have seen Luton take 25 points, Middlesbrough 23 and Sheffield United 21, a swing of only four and two points towards the challengers that just hasn't been anywhere near enough to dent the advantage the Blades already had. The five Blades defeats in those games could've been problematic, but they won the other seven with clean sheets in five of the wins spelling out the reason this team are inches from promotion.


Joe Gelhardt (Sunderland on loan from Leeds United)

It sometimes takes me a while to figure out exactly what a player's level or ceiling is for where they're destined to play their football. Some players start as they mean to go on and never really change status, others have a far more up and down journey to where they're ultimately heading. For Sunderland's on loan striker Joe Gelhardt we're very much in the figuring out process.

To use the Micah Richards phrase, Gelhardt 'burst onto the scene' in the Championship scoring as a 17 year old for Wigan in 2019. He was well known in the youth game and was one of many players picked off during Wigan's administration heading to Leeds in 2020. Even the most experienced players have to bide their time for an opportunity under iconic boss Marcelo Bielsa so there wasn't much in the way of first team football in Gelhardt's first season at Elland Road, but last season his energy off the bench eventually caught the eye of the Leeds fans.

This season Gelhardt was still not considered ready for a starting spot at Leeds and with Sunderland's repeated striker availability issues the loan seemed a sensible one. Gelhardt got his third Sunderland goal this midweek in the draw against Huddersfield, his numbers aren't spectacular but his influence seems to be growing. What happens next season will be fascinating, somewhere in between the huge potential in the early Wigan days and being down the pecking order at Leeds could present a big opportunity for a Championship club if a move is on the cards.

Follow Benjamin Bloom on Twitter @BenjaminBloom

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