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Championship review: Sheffield Utd confirm credentials; Wolves fullback Hoever a Stoke star; Pearson key for Warnock

Sheffield United confirmed their promotion credentials, Ki-Jan Hoever again starred for Stoke City and Matty Pearson offered Neil Warnock and Huddersfield Town survival hope. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Sheffield United

In my long range prognostications on the Championship's second automatic spot, this weekend had been flagged as a potentially pivotal one. The fixture list sent Middlesbrough in the chasing position to relegation threatened Huddersfield, while Sheffield United had a trickier looking engagement at fellow parachute team Norwich. Was this going to be the afternoon the Blades relinquished second spot to Boro? No. Quite the opposite in fact!

At half time things looked to be playing out in the manner that Sheffield United would've hoped to avoid, they were goalless at Carrow Road while Boro were a goal up at Huddersfield. Had everything stayed that way we'd have been looking at a single point gap between the two sides going into the Easter double header. Fortunately for United change was in the air and by the time the action reached the hour mark Boro were in all kinds of trouble over at Huddersfield. Just a couple of minutes later, James McAtee forced home a vital Blades goal at Norwich to turn what was looking like a one point gap into a six point gap.

I've always thought that a four point advantage is the gold standard in these nip and tuck promotion races, if that can be maintained then one of those crazy 'anything can happen' final days is avoided. I'm sure when he looked at these fixtures, Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom would've been absolutely delighted to come out with a four point lead, he's ended up with it being six.


Matty Pearson (Huddersfield Town)

I've given Sheffield United the 'team of the round' accolade but they really couldn't have done it without Huddersfield Town and particularly their two goal talisman Matty Pearson.

Huddersfield's disastrous start to the season was in the main conducted without Pearson, who didn't play at all during Danny Schofield's 'blink and you'll miss it' reign and just picked up the end of Mark Fotheringham's equally inauspicious tenure. The returning Neil Warnock has been able to call on Pearson and he blew away plenty of injury frustration with a key role in the key win over Middlesbrough.

Pearson found his way to the Championship as a centre back with Luton Town during their rise up the pyramid, he was deployed at right back by Warnock and maybe was a little bit 'out of sight, out of mind' for the Boro defence. The stirring comeback was already well in progress when Pearson was in the right place to thigh home Michael Helik's nod down from a set piece to put Town 3-1 up. He repeated the trick by ghosting in unnoticed from the right to slide home Danny Ward's bobbly shot as the Terrier's roared into a 4-1 lead.

Even if we won't be expecting many more two goal showings from Pearson this season, you would think Neil Warnock would lean heavily on his character, experience and aerial ability in both boxes as Huddersfield work towards what would be a miraculous escape.


One day derby delivery

Saturday brought us a lovely trio of Championship local derby match ups, at lunch time Watford headed up the M1 to Luton and Preston hosted Blackpool, with Swansea heading to Cardiff at 3pm.

Our lunch time double perhaps didn't throw up much in the way of surprises with home advantage and league table superiority predicting the winners. At Kenilworth Road it was all about the Rob Edwards narrative, with the Luton boss having been sacked by Watford earlier in the season. The Hatters comfortably avenged their defeat at Vicarage Road earlier in the season with the post game headlines taken by Watford boss Chris Wilder, who spoke very candidly about their need for a cultural reset.

Meanwhile at Deepdale it was former Blackpool man Brad Potts taking the 'represented both clubs' narrative and scoring the opening goal. Preston dominated and took the points with a 3-1 win that simultaneously boosts their outside play-off hopes and weakens Blackpool's survival hopes.

The most dramatic of the three grudge matches was saved for the 3pm slot as Swansea squeezed past Cardiff with a very late winner. It had looked as though the points would be shared when Sory Kaba equalised with the fourth goal of his growingly impressive loan spell with only seven minutes of normal time remaining. It's important that I stress 'normal time' as this game went on eleven minutes past the ninety, with Ben Cabango guaranteeing immediate legendary Swansea status with a 99th minute winner. Maybe we can get them a little more spread out in future, but the Championship certainly got a one day derby delivery.


KJ Hoever (Stoke City on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Two questions. When were we supposed to start taking Stoke seriously? And, who is their goal scoring right back?

In answer to the first question, only Luton have scored more Championship points since mid February. Forgive me if I wait a little while longer in the station as the train has looked like leaving a few times during Stoke's Championship run and ended up going nowhere fast.

Onto the right back and I will get excited about Ki-Jana Hoever. The Dutchman arrived on loan from Wolves in January, having been at Liverpool earlier in his career and having never scored a league goal since turning pro. Hoever's loan spell at Stoke is going tremendously well thus far, he is undefeated in the seven games he's started and has really embraced the attacking side of full-back play.

His two goal display against Blackburn seemed unlikely but that was quickly followed up with an important equalising goal up at Middlesbrough. Hoever was at it again this weekend rounding off a brilliant win for the Potters at Coventry with a mazy run and finish for Stoke's fourth goal of the day and his fourth goal of what is turning into a very successful loan period.

Follow Benjamin Bloom on Twitter @BenjaminBloom

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