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Championship review: Tufan inspires Hull; Birmingham rip apart Coventry; Obafemi has Millwall (almost) safe

Birmingham City ripped apart Coventry, Southampton are finding a winning consistency just at the right time and Ozan Tufan is inspiring a late surge from Hull City. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Birmingham City

It was another red hot weekend at the bottom of the Championship and not for the first time we had multiple wins for our struggling sides. It's been a strange season for clusters of wins at the bottom but when you take into account the identity of the teams beaten by those in the relegation dogfight it was a really shocking round of results. On Friday night Plymouth beat second place Leicester and then in the early kick-off on Saturday, Blackburn became the first away side to win at Elland Road this season when they defeated Leeds United.

Having seen two sides gain an unlikely three points on them, Birmingham were hoping for a similar performance as they faced a Coventry City side thirteen spots above them and on the edges of the play-offs. Don't get me wrong, the wins for Plymouth and Blackburn were outstanding but there was something about the way Birmingham took apart Coventry that really stood out.

With owner Tom Wagner pumping up the crowd at a raucous St Andrews, Blues coasted in 3-0 to make the jump out of the relegation zone as Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield both failed to win. Birmingham head to Huddersfield in the season's penultimate round, so if they can follow up the win over Coventry with one over already relegated Rotherham this weekend then the pressure gets piled onto the Terriers.

If they go on to survive, Birmingham fans will doubtless look back at this win as the one that put the ball in their court ahead of potentially the tensest Championship survival race in years.


Ozan Tufan (Hull City)

In the play-off race Hull City put on an excellent seven points across the three game week, closing it out with a comfortable 3-0 win over QPR. Although the victory was rounded off by a tremendous Jayden Philogene strike, it was Ozan Tufan who was the talisman in the first half as Hull got themselves two goals clear early in the proceedings. Tufan was in fabulous form striking the opener from long range before sliding through a superb through ball to assist Fabio Carvalho for the second.

I was full of excitement following Hull's January transfer window as proven Championship quality in Zaroury, Giles and Carvalho all arrived at the MKM. It hasn't quite clicked in the way I'd thought it might in terms of Hull's excellent roster of attacking players and Tufan's performance against QPR suggests he might hold the key.

If the problem for Hull and Tufan is a lack of consistency then their play-off rivals in sixth position Norwich City are certainly the example to follow. Even this week the relentless Canaries matched Hull's seven point total and Hull have six points to make up with four games to play. The fixtures could've been kinder but if Tufan and co are as flamboyant and decisive in front of goal as they were against QPR then there's always a chance.


Heist Of The Century

It's still mind boggling to me that we've had such a sharp change in narrative in the Championship automatic promotion race. No longer are we waiting to see which of the top teams blinks and drops slightly below the outrageous standards set this season to end up being an unlucky loser. Those standards have gone out of the window lately and the rare occasions of dropped points have become significantly less rare, so much so that if you aggregate the last five games for each of Ipswich, Leicester and Leeds, the top three have dropped points in ten out of their last fifteen games.

While the slow down in the top three has been going on we've seen a three game winning streak from Southampton, including the first of their two games in hand culminating in a very comfortable 3-0 win at home to Preston. All of a sudden we're needing to pivot on another narrative, namely the one that said 'Southampton are out of the top two chase and will have to make do with the play-offs'.

Saints players are probably as surprised as anyone that they've been allowed to record such a big points swing on all the teams above them but they've kept their heads and capitalised expertly so far. And 'so far' is the key here, as in order to make things really interesting Southampton will likely need to record a fourth a fifth straight win against Cardiff and in the massive remaining game in hand at Leicester. If they can do that then maybe we can start talking about Southampton sneaking in while everyone is falling over each other and pulling off the heist of the century to slide into one of those top two spots having seemed destined to finish fourth.


Michael Obafemi (Millwall on loan from Burnley)

I've already praised Blackburn for doing the hard yards before it gets too late and putting themselves into a very safe looking position, well look one place and one point above Rovers in the table and you'll see Millwall.

The maths is simple, if Blackburn are safe then so are Millwall and brilliant back-to-back home wins over Leicester and Cardiff have seen them to a total that pretty much always guarantees safety. Notice the deliberate use of 'pretty much' there, as we have seen some very unlucky teams go down with a 50+ point total but I just can't buy the notion that the three sides above already relegated Rotherham are all going to win at least two of their final three games and drag the Lions into an unlikely demise.

The catalyst for Millwall's latest win over Cardiff was Michael Obafemi, he hasn't necessarily set the world alight on loan from Burnley but he set this game alight powering through and scoring the opener. Millwall's firefighter boss Neil Harris knows better than anyone the route to the back of the net at the Den and seems to have given Obafemi the confidence and support to get himself going prior to the end of the season.

Again, I'd be massively surprised if Millwall needed any more points to survive and I'd be equally surprised if Obafemi's parent club Burnley survived relegation from the Premier League. Something tells me that Obafemi will be available next season and I wonder whether a permanent move to Millwall might be of interest to either party?

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About the author

Benjamin Bloom


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