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Championship Focus: Week 15

Villa hail their star-man, the match of the season and Vydra scores a hat-trick.

Burton Albion v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Who needs strikers anyway...?

Aston Villa 2 Ipswich Town 0

Albert Adomah is in scintillating form for Steve Bruce’s improving Aston Villa. The winger and Ghanaian international has racked up ten goals in just twelve starts for the Villains this season, including five in his last three games, propelling his side to fourth place in the Championship. Much to Villa fans’ amusement, Adomah’s double on Saturday meant he equalled the entire goal tally of Midlands rivals Birmingham City.

Villa’s speed-merchant punished Ipswich in the 36th minute of Saturday’s game. Wolves-loanee Dominic Iorfa was caught out of position for the visitors, allowing Adomah to waltz in on goal and dink the ball cooly over the on-rushing Bartosz Bialkowski.

The goal confirmed that this would be Ipswich’s seventeenth successive away game in which they have failed to keep a clean sheet. Adomah ensured the win in the second half, outwitting Iorfa once more to run through on goal. He slotted the ball into the bottom corner via the inside of the post and consolidated the home side’s playoff place.

Adomah’s form has eased any lingering pressure on Steve Bruce and the experienced manager was quick to highlight the importance of the winger’s goal-scoring form, amidst an injury crisis:

“It’s great because we now have a threat from a different position with several of our strikers on the injury list. We cannot keep losing our big players but it opens the door for someone else. You want them to flourish like Adomah.”

So, Aston Villa may be proving that a prolific striker isn’t always required to mount a promotion challenge. They travel to Elland Road on Friday night, hoping to close the gap on the automatic places.

Goals galore, Sessegnon sparkles and Jokanovic joy

Sheffield United 4 Fulham 5

Fulham v Hull City - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

We may have witnessed the game of the season this week… Last year’s playoff hopefuls Fulham secured an impressive three points at Sheffield United in a nine-goal thriller on Tuesday night.

The home side edged in front early on, once journeyman striker and now prolific marksman Leon Clarke bagging the first of the game from close range. But, the home side sacrificed the lead soon after; a sloppy back-pass from Cameron Carter Vickers allowing Liverpool-loanee Sheyi Ojo to level.

Fulham maintained their pressure and seventeen-year-old sensation Ryan Sessegnon curled past Jamal Blackman for 1-2. Nine minutes later, in-form Clarke equalised for the Blades, but the home side failed to hang on until half-time. Ojo and Sessegnon combined, with the latter volleying home at the far post for 2-3.

After a much-need breather, the two teams sparred once more in the second-half. In the 69th minute, it was Fulham who doubled their advantage. Sheyi Ojo’s superb display merited a second goal, this time taking an unfortunate deflection on route to the bottom corner.

Ryan Sessegnon has been courted by the Premier League’s elite and his performance on Tuesday night will have sparked renewed interest no doubt. With ten minutes remaining, the youngster drove into the box from the left-hand side and rifled home his hat-trick goal, all-but settling the tie at 2-5. Plucky Sheffield United don’t know when they’re beaten though and mounted a late comeback.

Samir Carruthers scored a rare goal for the Blades with four minutes remaining and Leon Clarke completed his hat-trick in stoppage time, to set up a nervy finale. It proved too little too late for the promotion contenders and the game ended 5-4 to the away side.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham team have underperformed this season and will hope to use this shock result as a springboard for recovering their season. Evidence on Saturday was promising, as they made it six points from six this week with a 1-0 win over Millwall. The Blades’ meanwhile looked lethargic in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham and need a win at The New Den next Saturday to reignite their promotion challenge.

Elsewhere in the Championship…

Derby County v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Wolves continue to set the pace, registering back-to-back home victories this week and scoring nine goals in the process. Bolton were put to the sword on Saturday in a 5-1 thrashing at Molineux, with Willy Boly, Leo Bonatini, Ivan Cavaleiro and Diogo Jota on the scoresheet. Cardiff have pulled three points clear in second, after two away wins at Barnsley and Forest. The Bluebirds kept back-to-back clean sheets.

Playoff candidates Bristol City and Derby County also secured important wins this week. City staged a miraculous comeback at the KCOM Stadium, to avenge their midweek defeat against Preston. The Tigers were 2-0 up with little more than twenty minutes remaining, but goals from Aden Flint, Bobby Reid and Josh Brownhill earned an unlikely three points for Lee Johnson’s side. Ex-Royal Matej Vydra is flying for Derby. Not only did the Czech striker score in the Rams’ Tuesday night victory over QPR, but he bagged all three in an impressive 3-0 away win over Middlesbrough on Saturday. Derby could climb to fourth if they win their game-in-hand.

At the other end of the table, Sunderland fans have something to cheer at long last. Chris Coleman’s new side won a relegation six-pointer at the Pirelli Stadium to leapfrog Burton Albion and climb off the bottom of the table. Phil Parkinson’s Bolton now sit dead-last, having sacrificed a winning position against the Royals midweek.

Yorkshire bragging rights were claimed by Leeds United. Their playmakers Ezgjan Alioski and Samu Saiz were the goalscorers in a convincing 2-0 win over Barnsley. Norwich and Preston played out a 1-1 draw, in a game that smacked of midtable mediocrity. Young starlet James Maddison scored for the Canaries, before Tom Barkhuizen’s second-half leveller rescued a point for Preston manager Alex Neil against his former club.

Finally, there is a clash of two west-London rivals to look forward to on Monday night, when QPR host Brentford.

Coming up next week:

Barnsley visit the Madejski on Tuesday night, in a game that must surely now be seen as a must-win for Jaap Stam. Three points could give the Royals the boost they need before a long trip to a revitalised Sunderland next weekend.

Elsewhere, there’s a match-up of two exciting attacking threats as Brentford host neighbours Fulham, but Friday night’s televised game is the stand-out for me, when Albert Adomah’s Villa travel to Leeds.