Marti Cifuentes clinched a first win as QPR manager, Sammie Szmodics was again outstanding for Blackburn and Leicester City were surprisingly pegged back by Sheffield Wednesday. All this and more in a jam-packed week in the Championship…
TEAM OF THE ROUND
Among the many magic numbers this midweek for QPR was 262, that’s the number of days the long suffering Rangers fans had to wait in between their last two home wins. QPR beat Watford 1-0 at Loftus Road on 11th March to record their previous home victory and it was a barmy 4-2 win over Stoke that finally broke the home turf hoodoo. We can add in the number 12 also as a horrible and slightly more short term reminder of QPR’s troubles this season, that was the number of games without a win going into the Stoke matchup.
Really though, it’s the number four that is most pertinent as it was four goals on new manager Marti Cifuentes’ fourth game in charge of Rangers that brought this much needed and potentially morale boosting win.
I don’t want to rain on the QPR parade but they definitely got a bit of assistance from Stoke along the way here. The opening goal was handed to the home side via a needless pull culminating in a Lyndon Dykes penalty, Stoke equalised and then gave QPR a man advantage when Enda Stevens received his second yellow card. The ten men of Stoke actually took the lead too before Dykes got his second to equalise, aptly then it was a Stoke own goal and a late Chris Willock strike sealing the deal.
In situations like QPR have been in it’s sometimes less about how that elusive win comes rather than just getting one by any means necessary, they’re up and running under Cifuentes and let’s hope for their sake it’s not another 262 days before the next home win!
PLAYER OF THE ROUND
Sammie Szmodics (Blackburn Rovers)
He’s wearing the Red Rose of Lancaster on his shirt and everything’s coming up roses for Sammie Szmodics this season. The rise of the Blackburn attacker to becoming the player who is currently the hottest scorer in the Championship and highly likely to be the player of the month for November has been a fascinating one.
Szmodics arrived in the Championship at Bristol City from Colchester but dropped down to Peterborough United in League 1 after making precious little impact at Ashton Gate. Peterborough are known as a bit of a striker factory in the lower leagues and his experience there saw him get another crack at the second tier with Blackburn. In his first season with Rovers the attacking hierarchy most definitely was topped by Ben Brereton-Diaz, but with the Chilean international out of the picture after leaving in the summer Szmodics has taken the ball and very much run with it.
His double this midweek in the 4-2 win over Birmingham comprised not one but two chips and took him to 13 for the season and clear at the top of the scoring rankings. Unsurprisingly Blackburn have moved to secure their red hot striker extending his contract to the end of the 2025-26 season and perhaps showing they’ve learned lessons from the past when the likes of Brereton-Diaz, Lenihan and Rothwell were all top players who were allowed to run their deals down and leave for free.
If Szmodics continues his current form for any sustained period he’ll likely be leaving Rovers and the Championship too, perhaps this time they’ll be able to cash in if they do have to say goodbye.
TALKING POINT OF THE ROUND
Top 4 squeeze Leicester
It’s a fickle world in the Championship, at the weekend you couldn’t be blamed for having the feeling that Leicester were never going to be caught and everyone was playing for second place. This was on the back of the Foxes winning for the 14th time already this season and every single other side that started the round in the top six failing to win. If everything went perfectly for Leicester at the weekend, the Championship reset itself this midweek and the exact opposite happened.
The Foxes surprisingly succumbed to a late equaliser to drop points at bottom of the table Sheffield Wednesday, while the entire chasing pack of Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton all won. Let’s throw West Brom in there too given their excellent recent form.
It’s fascinatingly poised for automatic promotion and the standard is so high that even the slightest slip does feel like it could be taken advantage of, hence my rapid swings in opinion on the matter. If Leeds and Southampton both win their next two games then we’ll have an unprecedented four teams on forty points or more at the twenty game mark. In most normal seasons hitting the two points per game marker at any point in the season should put you firmly in the driving seat for automatic promotion, suffice to say the work of Leicester and Ipswich thus far has been anywhere but normal.
With Leicester visiting West Brom at the weekend both sides will be keen to show their credentials, I wonder what the mood will be after the next round is complete!
LOANEE OF THE ROUND
Tyler Morton (Hull City on loan from Liverpool)
What a breakout week it’s been for Hull City loan player Tyler Morton. The Liverpool midfielder had never scored a senior goal until a week ago and since then he’s gone goal crazy. Firstly he scored for England under-21s at Goodison Park against Northern Ireland with a low and early half volley into the corner of the net.
We’re probably stretching the definitions in the trade descriptions act calling that a senior goal but Morton obviously returned to Hull emboldened and the very next game he got his long awaited first EFL goal in Hull’s 2-2 draw at Swansea. Would you believe it, within just five minutes of Hull’s midweek game at home to Rotherham, Morton had done it again and given the Tigers an early lead.
Hull went on to win 4-1 against the Millers and moved back into the top six, where they’ve been a pretty regular feature this season. Morton himself has been a pretty regular feature in their midfield too starting ten of the last 11 Hull games. As always with the very elite clubs it tends to be a rather brutal conversation with regards to the opportunities a loanee may get at their parent club.
We do know that Liverpool have developed many players through EFL loans and sold virtually all of them, with the notable exception of Harvey Elliott. With the Tigers willing to spend a sizeable fee to take Jaden Phiolgene this summer you wonder whether they’ll fancy a punt on making Tyler Morton’s move permanent at some point down the road.