Weekend Round up.
Weekend player round up from Sophie Beresford.
Ryan Giggs was an unused substitute for Manchester United as they rolled back the years with a 4-1 home win over Aston Villa. When Villa took the lead in the 13th minute, it looked like a typical struggling United performance, but they came back to claim the shock victory. The Europa League looks like a real possibility – something United fans haven’t been able to say for years.
Joe Ledley played 90 minutes of a real shock victory as Crystal Palace won 1-0 at home to Chelsea. Ledley’s own opportunities to score were put wide, but he still had an important part to play when he put Chelsea captain John Terry under pressure, causing him to head the ball neatly into the back of his own net. This goal was enough to give Palace a deserved win. Wayne Hennessey was an unused substitute for Palace.
Paul Dummett was dropped to the bench for Newcastle United, and can therefore say it wasn’t his fault that they lost 4-0 at Southampton, their 8th defeat in 2014. Newcastle struggled to deal with England hopefuls Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, and sensibly brought on their Welshman to deal with him in the 78th minute. Unfortunately, it was a bit late for Dummett to do anything other than watch Southampton score again.
Ashley Williams led Swansea City to their first ever Premier League victory over Norwich City, and it was his clearance off the line that prevented Norwich from equalising soon after Swansea’s opener. Swansea eased their own relegation worries while aggravating their visitors’ with a 3-0 home victory. Neil Taylor has recovered from the injury that forced him to be substituted during his surprise start against Arsenal, but Ben Davies regained the left back spot for this match.
Ben Turner might have refused to represent Wales (more fool him), but he helped to preserve Cardiff City’s slim hopes of survival when he set up a stoppage-time equaliser, bringing the final score to 3-3. Throughout the match, Cardiff showed the determination they really need, fighting back first from 2-0 to 2-2, then somehow finding another equaliser after West Brom went 3-2 ahead in stoppage time. Craig Bellamy was a constant and passionate threat for Cardiff. Boaz Myhill and Liam O’Neil were on the bench for West Brom.
On Sunday, Joe Allen was unlucky to be dropped to Liverpool’s bench after some great performances, but he did make a substitute appearance just after the hour mark to join in Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition job on visitors Tottenham Hotspur. Much has been made of Arsenal’s recent collapse, but it looks like they’re still the best team in North London – by some distance.
Sam Vokes lasted just 9 minutes for Burnley before pulling up with a knee injury that had no discernable cause. With top scorer Danny Ings also injured, league leaders Leicester City had an easier time of it than they might otherwise have done against the team in second place, claiming a 3-0 away victory – Burnley’s first home defeat since March 2013. Brian Stock returned to Burnley’s bench after recovering from a back injury. Leicester’s Andy King was also an unused substitute.
Jack Collison was back on the bench for Wigan Athletic in their away match against Bolton Wanderers, but came onto the field just before the hour mark and enjoyed a very eventful end to the match. Wigan scored an 88th-minute equaliser before winning a penalty in stoppage-time. Unfortunately for Wigan, neither Bolton nor their goalkeeper were to be beaten and the match finished 1-1.
Rhoys Wiggins didn’t have a particularly good day as Charlton Athletic travelled to Derby County and conceded three goals, scoring none in reply. One of these goals was partly as a result of a misdirected header by Wiggins – even candidates for their club’s Player of the Year awards are allowed a bad day. Charlton are outside the bottom three only on goal difference, but have two or three games in hand over the other teams.
Danny Collins opened the scoring for Nottingham Forest in the fourth minute of their away match against Ipswich Town. Ipswich are well aware of Collins’ scoring prowess - he scored three times during a 16-match loan spell in 2011 - but they were unable to prevent him from heading home a corner. The match finished 1-1, leaving Forest winless in ten matches, though a play-off place remains a possibility.
David Cotterill scored his second goal in six starts as Doncaster claimed a 2-1 away win over Yorkshire rivals Leeds – their second away win of the season. Cotterill opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, with their second coming just before half-time. Leeds got one back in the second half, but fell to their fifth defeat in six games. Chris Dawson has been excellent for Leeds’ youth team, but hasn’t featured in a senior squad this season.
Steve Morison won a penalty early in the second half for Millwall and the Lions took the lead for the second time in the 87th minute, also through a penalty. However, on both occasions, ten-man Blackburn Rovers equalised not long afterwards. Millwall are now second-bottom, without a home win since January, and their chances of survival look nearly as bad as their fans’ (mostly undeserved) reputations.
Robert Earnshaw was an unused substitute as Blackpool drew 1-1 at Queen’s Park Rangers, having spent most of the match in the lead. Blackpool, who have two points from their last twelve away games, will be just four points clear of the relegation zone if Barnsley win their game in hand. QPR are third, but their nine points behind the automatic promotion places.
Chris Gunter and Hal Robson-Kanu started for Reading, who remain in the play-offs despite drawing 1-1 at home to Huddersfield Town. A cross from Gunter nearly gave Reading a second, but it was Huddersfield who looked like the better side and the more likely to find a winner. Reading are winless in their last ten home games – they haven’t scored in open play since a Robson-Kanu strike in January.
Lewin Nyatanga kept his place in Barnsley’s starting line-up as they beat relegation rivals Yeovil Town 4-1 away. Tom Lawrence played 84 minutes for Yeovil and came close to a goal, but it was clawed over the bar. Yeovil, who dropped to the bottom of the league following this match, have won just three games in 2014.
Billy Waters made a stoppage-time substitute appearance for Crewe Alexandra, but he couldn’t prevent his team from losing 2-1 at home to Coventry City. The defeat puts Crewe back into the relegation zone, though it’s all very close: Crewe are one of four teams with 40 points. George Ray was an unused substitute for Crewe.
Lloyd James dropped to the bench for Leyton Orient as they hosted Bradford City – and extended their winless run to four games. Orient, who spent much of the season top of the league, are four points away from automatic promotion and will slip to fourth if Rotherham United win their game in hand. James came off the bench in the 69th minute, but Bradford held on to win 1-0 as Orient had a stoppage-time penalty appeal denied.
Dave Edwards recovered from a tight hamstring to join Sam Ricketts in the starting line-up for Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are six points clear at the top of League One after a 1-0 away victory at Milton Keynes Dons. James Loveridge made first professional start for MK Dons and “worked wonderfully well,” according to manager Karl Robinson. Lee Evans was an unused substitute for Wolves.
James Wilson was described as “the stand-out player’ for Oldham Athletic, defending well and nearly scoring with a header as Oldham hosted Wilson’s former loan club Brentford and held them to a 0-0 draw. The dropped points caused Brentford to fall further behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, but even one point was valuable for Oldham: they’re now four points clear of the relegation zone.
Craig Davies was an 86th-minute substitute for Preston North End as they beat Crawley Town 1-0 at home and came close to doubling their lead. Joe Walsh gave Crawley a scare when he conceded a free kick on the edge of the box, but luckily, it came to nothing. New recruit Gwion Edwards, on loan from Swansea City, was on the bench. Despite this defeat, Crawley’s games in hand mean they could join Preston in the play-offs.
Nicky Adams was a lively presence for Rotherham. as they extended their unbeaten run to fifteen matches with a 2-1 home win over Bristol City. Automatic promotion remains a possibility; if nothing else, they’ve almost certainly sealed their place in the play-offs. Craig Morgan also started for Rotherham and was determined in defence. Wes Burns was an unused substitute for Bristol City.
Richard Duffy somehow managed to clear an effort off the line in the 16th minute, but although Port Vale took the lead early in the second half, Duffy wasn’t able to prevent Stevenage from equalising to gain a 1-1 draw. This wasn’t enough to lift Stevenage off the bottom of the table, but they’re only two points from safety, despite winning just one of their last eight games.
Substitute Louis Thompson made the perfect return from an ankle injury - he scored his first professional goal in the 90th minute to give Swindon Town a 2-1 home win over play-off rivals and FA Cup semi-finalists Sheffield United. Ben Davies and Kieron Freeman, who provided the assist for Sheffield United’s equaliser, started for the visitors.
Jake Cassidy was one of a number of players who could have opened the scoring for Tranmere Rovers, but that can’t be easy when a team’s confidence is as low as their position in the table. Owain Fôn Williams and Ash Taylor managed to preserve a clean sheet, but an 0-0 home draw wasn’t quite what Tranmere needed. They remain out of the bottom three (and one place ahead of opponents Carlisle United) on goals scored.
Joe Jacobson returned to Shrewsbury Town’s starting line-up for their visit to Walsall, but a 1-0 defeat (coupled with a draw for Stevenage leaves them joint bottom, though only two points from safety with the best goal difference in the bottom six. Paul Parry dropped to the bench, but made an 83rd-minute appearance. Tom Bradshaw was also on the bench, despite reports that he was out for the season with a knee injury.
Kaid Mohamed scored in stoppage time to give Bristol Rovers a 1-0 home victory they didn’t really deserve – though the excellent cross from Ellis Harrison certainly deserved the finish Mohamed provided. Bristol Rovers are now six points clear of the relegation zone, and only two points behind opponents Morecambe.
Bristol Rovers’ other Welshman, Eliot Richards, didn’t have nearly such a good day. His loan side Exeter City were on the wrong side of a stoppage-time winner, though Accrington Stanley’s stoppage-time winner came in the first half so it probably didn’t hurt as much. Arron Davies was an unused substitute for Exeter.
Chris Maxwell gave a great performance for Fleetwood Town in their 0-0 home draw against Rochdale, who remain in first place. A win would have put Fleetwood just three points behind the automatic promotion places, but it wasn’t to be.
Troy Brown was outstanding in defence for Cheltenham Town as they gained a 1-0 away victory over Hartlepool United. Hartlepool seem like the more lively of the two teams with a number of chances, and they very nearly snatched a point at the death, but Cheltenham held on.
Darren Jones overcame an elbow problem but lasted just fifteen minutes of Wimbledon’s away match against Mansfield Town. Jones was stretchered off after taking a high boot to the face. Aaron Morris also started for Wimbledon, but managed to keep his face out of the way – though perhaps if a Wimbledon player had stuck his neck out a bit more, they might not have lost 1-0. Lee Beevers kept his place in defence for Mansfield.
Darcy Blake received his second yellow card and Newport’s second red card in their 2-1 home defeat to Portsmouth, but the Welsh side showed impressive spirit as they kept on fighting. Andrew Hughes and Mike Flynn also started; Aaron Amadi-Holloway was an unused substitute. Daniel Alfei played in defence for Portsmouth, for whom the three points were vital. They’re now four points clear of the relegation zone.
Craig Jones led Bury to a 3-0 away victory over Northampton Town, which took Bury seven points clear of the relegation zone. A cross from Daniel Nardiello set up Bury’s opening goal. Jones should also have picked up an assist, but his cross wasn’t converted.
Christian Ribeiro was again an unused substitute as Scunthorpe United drew 0-0 at home to Wycombe Wanderers. Scunthorpe are unbeaten in 24, but the draw denied them the chance to move level with leaders Rochdale, who also dropped points. Wycombe are three points above the drop zone.
Freddy Eastwood was dropped to the bench, but he still scored his first goal since October and that was enough for Southend United to win 1-0 at home to bottom club Torquay United – a win they needed in order to move into the play-off places on goal difference. Billy Bodin could have won a penalty for Torquay, but his appeals were waved away.
Gareth Bale scored twice in three minutes as Real Madrid returned to winning ways with a 5-0 home victory over Rayo Vallecano. Bale’s pass provided the assist for Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener before finding the net himself in the 68th and 70th minutes, the first a tap-in and the second a solo effort. Bale now has twelve La Liga goals and twelve assists. If that’s struggling, I can’t wait to see him at his best.