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Championship Focus: Week 23

Sessegnon punishes Barnsley, Norwich sensation scores a wondergoal and Wolves return to winning ways.

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

Red mist scuppers Barnsley’s chances

Barnsley 1 Fulham 3

Dimitri Cavare will not have been popular in the Barnsley dressing room this weekend. The full-back’s senseless red card scuppered the Tykes’ chances of holding onto a 1-goal lead and, ultimately, resigned the home-side to another costly defeat. Barnsley remain in 19th as a result, two points behind Reading.

In-form Fulham had won their last three Championship games, so few had expected Barnsley to take the lead. Liam Lindsay bagged the opener in controversial fashion. The goal was beyond scrappy – a Stevie Mallan corner prompting head-tennis in the penalty area and, when the ball eventually fell to the centre-back Lindsay, his prod squirmed into the bottom corner. A Barnsley player appeared to have obstructed Marcus Bettinelli from making the save, but the goal was given. Sadly, no VAR on-hand for Fulham.

Barnsley were good value for their lead and had leapfrogged the Royals in the table at this point but, soon after, a moment of madness would turn the game. Cavare reacted badly to a foul by Stefan Johansen, shoving the midfielder over in front of the referee and earning his marching orders.

In the second-half, the Cottagers capitalised on their man-advantage. Good work on the right from Ryan Fredericks created a shooting opportunity and, when the ball cannoned back off the post, Ryan Sessegnon levelled the scores. It wasn’t until the 92nd minute that Fulham took the lead. Kevin McDonald scrambled the ball over the line after a goal-mouth scramble and, three minutes later, Sessegnon scored his second to secure the 3-1 victory. The 17-year old winger is on phenomenal form, having scored 11 this season from the wing, and may attract serious interest from the Premier League elite over the next few days.

Barnsley fans will be gutted that their side couldn’t hold on for at least a point, defeat compounding their problems at the bottom of the table. The Tykes have upcoming fixtures against QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and Burton – games that will define their season.

Remember the name… James Maddison

Brentford 0 Norwich City 1

Norwich City v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

James Maddison’s stock is rising fast. Norwich’s 21-year old midfielder has recently been linked with a move to the top-flight, with West Ham and Tottenham rumoured to be interested in a deal that could be worth as much as £20 million. His performance on Saturday may have boosted his value once more.

Maddison scored his eighth league goal of the season to secure an impressive three points for Daniel Farke’s side at Griffin Park. It was a stunning strike. Maddison picked up the ball thirty yards from goal, nutmegged Ryan Woods and curled into the top corner from range.

Norwich signed Maddison from Coventry City in 2016 and, after a string of loans, the youngster has flourished under his new German manager and consolidated his place in the Canaries’ starting line-up. Norwich have already signed Onel Hernandez, Moritz Leitner and Dennis Srbeny this window but, if they were to lose Saturday’s matchwinner, they would surely need to replace him in order to keep their faint hopes of a playoff push alive.

Brentford, meanwhile, will have been disappointed to suffer their second home defeat of the season. They lost ground on the top-six and, with a tough trip to Derby up next and their frontman Lasse Vibe rumoured to be nearing a move to China, they face a tough task to keep their surge up the table on track.

Elsewhere in the Championship…

Ipswich Town v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

League-leaders Wolves returned to winning ways on Saturday, earning a 1-0 win at Portman Road. Wanderers didn’t have it all their own way, Ipswich testing John Ruddy throughout, but the experienced keeper kept a valuable clean sheet. Matt Doherty scored the only goal for the visitors, heading Barry Douglas’ dinked-cross past Bartosz Bialkowski.

Fellow automatic promotion chasers Bristol City also registered three points, defeating QPR 2-0 at Ashton Gate. The home side were reduced to ten-men in the first-half, Nathan Baker sent off for a reckless lunge. Despite their reduced numbers, the Robins’ rallied and goals from Famara Diedhiou and Joe Bryan proved the difference.

Coming up next week:

As the January transfer window draws to a close, it will be interesting to see if late business will help or hinder the Championship’s promotion-chasers and relegation-scrappers. We have a double game-week to look forward to – Reading facing Burton Albion on Tuesday night, before the visit of Millwall next Saturday. Elsewhere, Birmingham vs Sunderland could be significant midweek and, at the weekend, Leeds vs Cardiff catches the eye.