Weekend Winners and Losers
Following another weekend of thrills and spills, here are the winners and losers from across England’s four divisions.
Declan Rice ⬆️
It’s been quite a couple of weeks for Declan Rice. Having ended all doubt regarding his future by signing a bumper 5 and a half year contract just after Christmas, the West Ham starlet delighted team-mates and Hammers fans alike by hitting the winning goal at home to Arsenal in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.
He had already threatened Bernd Leno’s goal prior to the half time whistle, missing the target with a close-range header. However, the 19 year-old made no mistake shortly after the break, curling expertly past the German into the top corner for his first senior goal.
Cue wild celebrations at the Olympic Stadium as a clearly jubilant Rice was mobbed by his teammates who had been giving the holding midfielder a fair share of stick for his lack of goals so far!
Well, they can mock him no longer. With the winning goal, man of the match award and an upcoming 20th birthday to celebrate, Rice delighted the West Ham faithful further by heading down the pub with Irons fans to carry on the celebrating!
David Wagner took his Huddersfield side to Cardiff knowing, realistically, only a win would see them with any hope of mounting a great escape.
Although they managed a clean sheet and a point to stem a run of eight successive league losses, the same problem to blight their season was apparent once more as the Terriers drew another blank. In fairness, the league’s basement side were hugely unfortunate to be denied a penalty when Lee Mason pointed to the spot, only to then overturn the decision based on what his assistant had seen.
A sense of injustice perhaps but Huddersfield, for all their possession, appear some way short of the quality required to compete with the elite in England. 11 points and 13 goals scored in 22 games says it all and having failed to muster a win when they were most in need, the writing is now firmly on the wall for Wagner’s team.
Jarrod Bowen & Hull City ⬆️
Five consecutive wins has seen Hull spring out of the relegation zone to sit within just four points of the Championship play-offs. It was little surprise then to see Nigel Adkins named Manager of the Month for December but perhaps wasn’t so clear, was how this would affect Hull's next fixture given the award's tendency to act as a curse.
The Tigers aren’t one for shying away from a challenge though and instead notched up their sixth successive win. Against their Yorkshire rivals too. Striker Frazier Campbell rounded off the scoring but it was the goals and all round contribution of 22 year old Jarrod Bowen that proved decisive.
Having also been recognised for an outstanding December with the division's Player of the Month award, the youngster continued his fine streak with a further two goals, taking his tally to 13 in an impressive campaign so far. Not a bad time to be a Hull City supporter then! So long as they hang on to Bowen that is, the form of the former Hereford man hans't gone unnoticed by Premier League clubs.
Dean Smith & Aston Villa ⬇️
Villa sacked Steve Bruce and brought in Dean Smith in the hope of reviving a flailing promotion bid. As yet though, they’ve flattered to deceive under the self-confessed Villa supporter who admitted the defeat to an out of form Wigan on Saturday was the worst of his managerial so far.
With over 550 games under his belt, that’s a rather damning indictment of how Villa played and perhaps a hint of frustration that Villa haven’t yet kicked on during his reign.
They sit in exactly the same position (12th) as they did when Smith initially took over and having passed up the opportunity to close the gap, now have a mountain to climb if they’re to have any chance at all of reaching the play-offs.
Luton Town ⬆️
Nathan Jones shocked many in the footballing sphere last week by turning his back on Luton in the midst of their promotion bid in order to take the reins just a few places up the football pyramid at Stoke City. Not only this, he did so before arguably the club’s biggest match of the season at Sunderland. Talk about timing and lack of loyalty!
Despite such adversity, the Hatters, led by former manager Mick Harford, caretaker manager while the club undertake the search for Jones’ successor, rolled up their sleeves to put in a performance full of mettle and show just why they’re serious contenders for a second successive promotion.
The smiles would’ve been wider still on the faces of the Luton players when they saw the score coming through from Fratton Park. Long-time leaders Portsmouth blew a golden chance to capitalise on their nearest challengers taking points off each other, going down at home to Blackpool.
Kenny Jackett’s men still the lead the way by four points but missed out on putting some clear daylight between themselves and their closest rivals. If Pompey’s promotion bid takes a turn for the worse, they’ll certainly look back at this weekend as a defining one.
Scoring a goal in injury time to win a game 4-3 having been 1-3 down is one thing. But to do it against your promotion rivals and leapfrog them in the table is pretty special.
Losing by two with 20 minutes remaining, there didn’t appear much hope left for Bury. But a stunning comeback started by Dom Telford, continued by Danny Mayor and capped by Nicky Adams brought sheer ecstasy to those at Gigg Lane. Well, unless you were a MK Dons fans, of course!
The Shakers rose to second with their third straight win to close within three points of leaders Lincoln having played two games more.
Notts County ⬇️
English football’s oldest club are in grave danger of losing their football league status if they don’t turn around a desperate run of form which has seen them win just one of their last sixteen games.
County, now under the stewardship of Neal Ardley, their third manager of a chaotic campaign, could’ve closed the gap on their fellow strugglers to only two points had they beaten Cambridge at Meadow Lane in front of a bumper crowd of 15,000.
Instead, the prospect of The Magpies heading down into the National League is looking more and more likely following their latest loss. The gap to Cambridge in 20th is now eight points, while they’re still six points adrift of safety.
To say, they need a miracle may be a bit excessive at this stage but if they fail to beat 22nd placed Yeovil next weekend, their 131 year-long stay in the EFL pyramid will soon be at an end.