Queens Park Rangers VS Barnsley.
Last season Barnsley surprised everyone with a spectacular FA Cup winning streak that included the giant killings of Chelsea and Liverpool.
This time around, despite playing arguably better football, with slicker passing and a great goal scored after 5 minutes, by Iain Hume, Barnsley were undone by their inability to defend set pieces, and QPR's determination.
The side, managed by Iain Dowie, has seen many changes this summer, with expensive signings and intense pre-season training, and it showed. QPR may have been so to start, and on the back foot for most of the first half, but their quality and dedication shined though when Emmanuel Ledesma's free-kick in the 29th minute hit the back of the net – a great strike that levelled the terms for the home side.
Less than two minutes later he met with Cook's corner and took QPR ahead.
Barnsley refused to give in and arguably had the better game from then of – the second half has been described by enough people as “one sided” - in this case, Barnsley played hard and fast, but were undone when Van Homoet was sent off in the 83rd minute – a regrettable action for his club that may have lost his side a crucial point at the start of the season.
The performances of the two teams bodes well for their future in this league.
Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 2 – 1 Barnsley.
Birmingham City VS Sheffield United.
Kevin Philips was the man of the hour with a very late strike to give his new side, Birmingham, all three points.
Taylor, the United keeper, had been tested several times throughout the match as the two teams battled their way through a gritty 90 minutes, and was only beaten when substitute Philips turned and shot – an impressive finish that should remind the naysayers that this player once won a golden boot in the top division not too long ago.
It was a devastating loss for Sheffield, still adjusting to life outside the top flight after a year, but Birmingham fans can be rightly proud of their team's determined performance, which was Premier League class – will they get back there? A question to be looked at later in the season.
Final Score: Birmingham City 1 – 0 Sheffield United.
Blackpool VS Bristol City
Last season I made the trip up to Blackpool VS Charlton and was rightly surprised (unpleasantly, for Charlton lost!) by how hard working they are. That time, they were rewarded, this time however a well deserved point became a devastating loss with a Bristol City strike in the last minute of the match.
It fell to Bristol City substitute Steve Brooker to nick the points for City, having replaced Dele Adebola in the 80th minute.
It was suggested last season that Blackpool would be relegated instantly – happily this was not the case, and the plucky club are still around to punch above their weight. It was a blow yesterday, but with performances like that, it's this writer's opinion that the Blackpool fans may have more to look forward to than a relegation struggle.
Final Score: Blackpool 0 – 1 Burnley.
Sheffield Wednesday VS Burnley
Sheffield Wednesday's demolition of Burnley shows what can be done when you acquire some decent strikers to balance out an already strong squad. Marcus Tudgay and Akpo Sodje scored two goals each, firmly putting Wednesday on the top of the table this weekend.
Tudgay put the Owls ahead in the first minute, Sodje doubling the lead less than three minutes later, whereas it fell to débutante Martin Paterson to score for Burnley with a near-post header, but it was short lived: Sodje restored Wednesday's two-goal lead within the first twenty minutes.
The two teams were working hard, and it could have gone sour for Wednesday when Sodje, injured, limped off, but Tudgay killed the game off in the 65th minute with a devilishly powerful finish.
Final Score: Sheffield Wednesday 4 - 1 Burnley.
Cardiff City VS Southampton
Last gasp winners are becoming something of a habit in the Championship, and it was Roger Johnson's last gasp shot that won Cardiff City their first home match of the year. They had been ahead 1-0 in the first half but a strike by David McGoldrick levelled things up just before the half-time whistle blew.
Cardiff were the valiant losers in the FA Cup last year, and have played some magnificent football over the last year. It looks as if that is set to continue. Southampton, on the other hand, look tired already. A tough year ahead for the saints, in this writer's opinion.
Final Score: Cardiff City 2 – 1 Southampton.
Charlton Athletic VS Swansea City
It was not a happy Valley yesterday afternoon before kickoff, the Charlton faithful are reeling from a summer of senior players upping and leaving, and the news that Zheng Zi, the china midfielder that the Addicks have cherished for the last two years – is to leave? Left an already damp and grey Valley in an even worse mood.
Thank goodness then, for Mark Hudson, newly made captain – who scored in the second minute to rapturous applause and cheering from the Charlton faithful.
Swansea's day was only going to get worse: the pitch conditions were not perfect and both teams slipped their way through challenges and some frankly dreadful refereeing decisions. One decision that was spot on was the sending of Swansea Captain Monk, for a dangerous challenge in wet weather on Charlton Stalwart Matt Holland. Described as “harsh” by other viewers, having seen the footage several times over it is clear his studs were up and in no way going for the ball. Swansea's bad day was complete when Andy Gray, on a grey day himself with some shoddy play, finally netted a goal in the 85th minute.
Swansea look set to struggle, and Charlton's lightweight squad doesn't bode well for the rest of the season, but neither look in immediate danger of relegation just yet!
Final score: Charlton 2 – 0 Swansea.
Coventry City VS Norwich City
It seems like only a few months ago (and it was!) that I watched a Coventry side be defeated emphatically by a Charlton side with nothing to play for. Despite the loss, Coventry stayed up and at the time I questioned how much longer they'd stay in this league.
With a performance like that yesterday, I think Coventry City fans may have a little more hope this year. Norwich on the other hand, despite an acrobatic display from John Kennedy, looked like starting the year as they finished last season.
A penalty by Elliot Ward put Coventry ahead and it fell to Leon Mackenzie to wrap things up in the 86th minute.
Final Score: Coventry City 2 – 0 Norwich City.
Crystal Palace VS Watford
Watford and Crystal Palace shared a rather dull match in which two very good sides effectively nullified each others chances. Moses of Palace wasted a few shots, as did Tommy Smith of Watford, but other than that it was a game with not much going on. There was a fantastic moment, when Jobi McAnuff shot for goal, and Speroni moved, panther like, to save: a magnificent save that gets my vote as the moment of the week.
That and Neil Warnock's interview post-match, in which he was heard to utter: "I thought it was just two professional sides who have cancelled each other out. I thought we look more likely to score more in the first half but they had more of the possession with the system that they played”. I couldn't agree more with that summation.
Final Score: Crystal Palace 0 – 0 Watford.
Derby County VS Doncaster Rovers
They have followed obediently like sheep, they have not questioned or moaned when things didn't go their way – and yesterday the fans of the rams hit back, booing a frankly toothless and pathetic performance that should start the alarm bells ringing already. The “new look” Derby lost 1-0 to a spirited Doncaster side that look very comfortable when going forward – although it did take them an hour to score, Lewis Guy putting them ahead.
Paul Jewell's refusal to panic is commendable, but many of the other teams in the Championship are “new look” sides and certainly did not have the problems his side have – such as missing open goals, and failing to pass proficiently.
Rightly booed off the pitch, Derby have a lot to answer for after being relegated in such a manner last year – and if they do not improve? To quote Jewell, “We had seven players making their début and it showed. It is not a crisis losing after one game” - and this writer expects Jewell to be saying something very similar in ten games time.
Final Score: Derby County 0 – 1 Doncaster Rovers.
Ipswich Town VS Preston North End
The tractor boys opened the scoring in the 2nd minute with ex-Charlton Athletic striker Kevin Lisbie (most memorable for his hat trick against Liverpool some years ago). They were ultimately to lose to a fantastic performance from the North Enders, who hit back with a lightning bolt from captain Paul Mckenna in the 21st minute, and a tap in from Simon Whaley in the 34th minute.
The two teams were very professional last year, both playing at times magnificent football, and other times, dire football. Ipswich's high scoring matches last year instantly come to this writer's minds – more fluidity required this time around, but both teams have decent squads, and the Ipswich town fans should not feel too disappointed – yes, it is a defeat, but is an educational defeat. Some sloppy play fifteen minutes from the first goal lost them the match, but they played well from then on.
As for Preston – a great start to the year. May it continue.
Final Score: Ipswich Town 1 – 2 Preston North End.
Plymouth VS Wolverhampton Wanderers
Late equalisers are in full force this week, as Plymouth met the boys from Wolverhampton – an early 7th minute goal from Rory Fallon of Plymouth opened the proceedings.
Less than ten minutes later, Wolves equalised with Kightly volley from a Foley cross, and the game was on – the two teams wrestled with each other, wolves baying at the penalty area, and Plymouth sailing through the centre spot every so often – this was the best end to end game of the day, by no means one sided and a great example of two Championship clubs that I fully expect to be pushing for automatic promotion.
McCarthy's Wolves might have clinched it when they equalised in the 78th minute after a Michael Seip close range shot for Plymouth in the 55th minute, but the two teams were well matched defensively in the closing stages, and the score was a thoroughly deserved 2-2 and the spoils shared.
Final Score: Plymouth 2 – 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Just two things: one, it's far too quiet in the West Stand at Charlton Athletic. It is not a library! Make some noise, Addicks!
Secondly: It's great to have real football back – three months is far too long to wait!
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