Blackburn Rovers remain a promotion dark horse, Tom Cannon is proving his potential at Preston and Rotherham ‘may’ have earned themselves a crucial point. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship…
TEAM OF THE ROUND
In a league known for throwing up peculiar twists, Blackburn Rovers have perhaps been this season’s most peculiar team. A summer changing of the guard saw Jon Dahl Tomasson take over as manager, with the new guy needing to replace important players like Joe Rothwell and Darragh Lenihan after both slipped away on free transfers.
For us onlookers, most of the season has been spent trying to unpick the highly quirky and almost predictably unpredictable nature of Rovers results. Tomasson’s Blackburn gave us plenty of low margin victories, plenty of defeats and amazingly no draws for their first 32 games in League and Cup. Of course, the perceived wisdom was then confounded by a run of five draws in six games to break their duck and now here they go again on a winning streak with Rovers win at the weekend at QPR their third in a row.
The analytical part of my brain says ‘fixtures against Swansea, Blackpool and QPR have been easy’, the self aware part of my brain says ‘this lot are just not going away’. Yes, they’ve got zero goal difference. Yes, they’ve lost more games than anyone else in the top half. But, the fact that Blackburn are still in the thick of the play-off mix as our calendars tick over to March suggests their staying power might’ve been underestimated.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND
Viktor Gyokeres (Coventry City)
There’s this idea in football that not all forwards can do everything. In the halcyon 4-4-2 days attacking skill sets could be shared between two strikers, maybe one brought the power and physicality, the other the speed and trickery. In the modern game a central striker will often be a solo act and the more attacking arsenal attributes he possesses, the less help he needs. Think Didier Drogba of Chelsea, enough pace and power to mix it physically, but allied with excellent technique, skill and imagination.
Now that I’ve given him the big build up I’d better be very clear in saying that I’m not comparing Coventry City’s Viktor Gyokeres to Drogba in terms of quality, but this weekend we saw a highly complete centre forward performance by the excellent Swede. Gyokeres’ gave us intelligence and movement to come off the line, pace to carry the ball into the box and unselfish presence of mind to cut it back for Jamie Allen to fire in the opener against Sunderland.
Later in the half the striker went all rampaging bull and showed acceleration and dribbling before slipping his finish just wide of the post. Gyokeres was destined to get on the scoresheet in the end and put Coventry two up right on full time with a solid exhibition of being in the right place at the right time and firing home. That’s 15 for the season now for ‘Big Vik’, who’s game becomes more and more complete as his time at Coventry goes on.
TALKING POINT OF THE ROUND
Rotherham Right Place Right Time?
It’s not the biggest revelation that the top half of a league table scored more points than the bottom this round, especially three quarters of the way into the season with the hierarchy fairly well set. The Championship success binary was ridiculously evident this week, there was only one draw out of the twelve games and the round ended with 11 out of the top 14 with a tick in the win column. This means that it wasn’t a very good round for the struggling sides with eight out of the bottom nine experiencing defeat and the table as a result barely moving.
The one side in the bottom six to put a point on the board this round was Rotherham, who drew 1-1 at Swansea in the Monday night TV game. By the time we’d got to Monday the implications of the defeat heavy bottom segment of the table was not lost on Millers fans. Some went with the ‘it’s a free hit’ logic, others ‘a point is now more significant’, and those who dared to see the best case scenario were in the ‘a win would be huge’ camp, with the chance to make three points on literally everyone else down there. Maybe all of those perceptions are actually true to some extent.
Rotherham played well, led by the thrust of Chiedozie Ogbene from the right hand side and despite Swansea taking the lead in a rare period of control, the Millers came back well and were probably the more likely winner as the draw played out. Matt Taylor’s side will definitely have worse weekends than this one and only the final standings will tell us whether this will be a vital point or a missed opportunity to take all three.
LOANEE OF THE ROUND
Thomas Cannon (Preston on loan from Everton)
Things were getting a little bit tense in the stands as the half-time whistle was blown during the North West derby between Preston and Wigan this past weekend. The Preston fans weren’t too impressed to see their side go in 0-1 down to bottom of the table Wigan and vocalised some of that unhappiness. In defence of the Preston fans they’d seem their team lose five and draw one of their previous six Championship games at Deepdale, so perhaps their anxiety had been building for a bit of a while.
The North End fans were much happier at full-time as they came back to win the game 2-1, with Everton loanee Thomas Cannon instrumental in the turnaround. First, Cannon slipped a nice ball through from out to in, which Daniel Johnson ran on to and was brought down for a penalty. We can have a long debate about the penalty decision, but there was no doubting the excellent subtlety of Cannon’s defence splitting contribution.
There was nothing subtle about the winner, which was brilliantly taken by Cannon after Alan Browne’s ball over the top. The speedy forward powered in behind and finished decisively in off the far post to hand Preston their first home win in nearly four months. Only Cardiff have fewer goals than Preston and only Wigan have fewer home wins, Thomas Cannon will be hoping to improve both of those issues during his loan switch.
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