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Championship Focus: Week 22

Find out how the rest of the division got on in an action-packed set of Championship fixtures.

Leeds United v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Glory for Millwall, as Leeds fans ‘see red’ again

Leeds United 3 Millwall 4

A stoppage-time strike from Jed Wallace secured all three points for Millwall in a seven-goal thriller at Elland Road. The Lions registered their first away-victory of the season at Leeds’ expense, easing relegation fears and leaving the faltering home side four points adrift of the playoff places.

Discontent is brewing amongst sections of the United faithful, testament to a five-game winless run, and an error-strewn first-half performance did little to improve the mood. German striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga missed two guilt-edge chances in the opening minutes and was made to pay moments later, when Millwall took the lead. Steve Morison crossed to the far-post for the visitors and Aiden O’Brien made no mistake with a powerful header.

Millwall continued to threaten relentlessly, while Leeds’ situation worsened significantly when their captain Liam Cooper was dismissed for a rash challenge with fifty-three minutes remaining. That was ill-disciplined United’s third red card in successive games. Lee Gregory compounded the misery just before half-time, sliding in to double the advantage. 0-2.

Whatever Thomas Christiansen said at half-time worked a treat. Ten-man Leeds looked revived and rampant at the start of the second period and turned the game on its head within seventeen minutes. The previously wasteful Lasogga finished emphatically to reduce the deficit to one, before Kemar Roofe scrambled home the scruffiest of equalisers, pouncing on a mistake from Jordan Archer in the away goal. Lasogga slammed home a third soon after and the unlikeliest of comebacks was complete. A magnificent escape – or so it seemed...

Neil Harris’ Millwall weren’t beaten just yet and three minutes from time lofty striker Tom Elliot turned home to crank up the pressure on a nervy Leeds back-line and draw the game level. 3-3. Two minutes into injury time, the game was decided once and for all. Jed Wallace’s deflected shot nestled in the bottom corner, triggering pandemonium in the away end.

Leeds need another purple patch to rekindle their promotion hopes before it’s too late and, one thing is for certain, they can’t continue to let ill-discipline cost them valuable points. Millwall, however, are heading in the right direction. Last year’s League One playoff final victors are now nine points clear of the drop-zone and having got ‘a monkey off their backs’ in Saturday’s maiden away-triumph, they will have little to fear ahead of their next away trip to the Madejski next month.

Karanka inspires stunning win for Forest

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Nottingham Forest 2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship - Molineux Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

“Today is the first step of a long journey.”

These were the words of new Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka following his side’s shock 2-0 win against the Championship’s runaway leaders. The Spaniard’s team inflicted Wolves’ first league defeat since October.

Forest’s organised and disciplined performance was built upon solid foundations in defence and, in a game of few chances, their gutsy display merited the impressive result. Goals from two promising youngsters proved the difference. Kieran Dowell, on loan from Everton, looks a real talent and, aided by a hefty deflection, his long-range effort opened the scoring. The midfielder is the club’s top scorer, that his ninth of the season. There was no fortune about local- boy Ben Osborn’s second - he slammed the ball past John Ruddy to subdue the expectant home support.

In his interview after the game with the Nottingham Post, Karanka said:

“If we continue to grow, we will continue to improve. But we have to keep our feet on the ground, because this was just the first win.”

The forty-four-year old has previous success at this level on his CV, having guided Middlesbrough back to the top-flight two seasons ago, and Forest fans will crave a similar achievement in the years to come. Currently eleven points from the playoffs, that may prove too great a gap to make up this season, but with early signs of improvement and an opportunity to strengthen the youthful squad further over the next two weeks, good times may well be coming to the City Ground.

Elsewhere in the Championship…

Fulham v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Fulham’s form has been impressive of late and, boy, did they hammer home their promotion credentials on Saturday?! The Cottagers hit six in a dominant display against Burton, to claim their fifth win in six league games.

Middlesbrough recorded an emphatic victory this weekend, winning 3-0 at Loftus Road. George Friend’s left-footed drive was the pick of their goals. Villa also scored three times, consolidating their playoff position with a 3-1 win over struggling Barnsley, whilst Sheffield United remain sixth after a 2-1 victory over Norwich.

At the bottom of the Championship, Sunderland picked up a vital win at home to relegation rivals Hull City. Nigel Adkins’ Tigers are now only outside of the bottom-three on goal difference. Birmingham were good value for a point at Preston, both sides registering a-goal-a-piece, whilst Bolton couldn’t hold on to their advantage against Ipswich, so also had to settle for a point.

Two of the weekend’s glitzier fixtures both finished goalless. Sheffield Wednesday drew 0-0 with Cardiff and Derby were held by Bristol City.

Coming up next week:

Reading’s woeful form will be a cause for concern for Jaap Stam, but attention must turn to the FA Cup again next week, when the Royals travel to Hillsborough in the 4th round. There are four Championship fixtures however, contested by those no longer in the hat. Brentford play Norwich, Bristol City face QPR, leaders Wolves travel to Ipswich, but my pick of the bunch is a clash with relevance at both ends of the table - Barnsley take on flying Fulham.