With international football over until March, we can now look forward to weekends with a full set of EFL fixtures.
And this weekend kicked off the exciting period leading up to Christmas with an absolute treat. We had table-toppers in form, an official nightmare and faltering pace-setters in this week’s Good, Bad and Ugly from the EFL weekend.
Good: Farke’s Canaries take flight
Norwich City fans have suffered over recent seasons. Since relegation from the Premier League in 2016, the club have finished in 8th and 14th in the EFL Championship. And defeat to Stoke City in early October saw the Canaries sat in 8th once more.
However, since then, they had won 5 consecutive league games to top the table, before this weekend’s trip to Swansea City.
And the men in Yellow delivered again with a scintillating away performance, making it 6 wins in a row, and 7 league games unbeaten away from home.
The away side began on top against the Swans, and took the lead through a Mike Van der Hoorn own goal. Before they then grabbed a second less than ten minutes later, courtesy of Emiliano Buendia’s finish.
By the 37th minute, it was 3-0, as Marco Stiepermann tapped in to surely put the game beyond doubt. But to Swansea’s credit, they didn’t give up, pulling a goal back a few minutes later through Daniel James to set up an exciting second half.
The possibility of a comeback was snuffed out, however, on the hour mark, with a goal from Teemu Pukki sealing the win for Norwich.
The result sees the visitors remain 2 points clear at the top of the EFL Championship. Whilst Swansea dropped to 10th, 5 points off the play-off places.
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) November 24, 2018
Bad: Promotion race suffers a stumble
When you’re fighting at the top end of the table, it is important to avoid any slip-ups, as you expect the teams around you to win and take advantage. However in EFL League Two this weekend, that was not the case.
That is because the top seven, the supposed best teams in the league, all failed to win. Giving the chasing pack outside the play-offs a chance to gain some ground.
This rather odd turn of events began at the early kick-off, when 2nd placed Lincoln City hosted 5th placed Mansfield. The local rivals both scored late goals, having to settle for a point a piece.
The draw gave MK Dons the opportunity to go 3 points clear at the top with a win at Stevenage. But despite leading, they conceded twice in the final five minutes to surrender all three points and lose their top spot to the Imps.
Two other high-flyers that faced off were 4th placed Colchester United and 6th Placed Exeter City. And like the game at Sincil Bank, it was a stalemate in another tight game. Although it was enough to lift the home side into the EFL League Two automatic promotion places.
This was due to the fact that Newport County, who had occupied 3rd place, lost away at struggling Cheltenham Town. The Robins scored twice in the first half to gain their 1st home win of the season, in what was the shock of the day.
And 7th placed Tranmere Rovers completed the set, having to come from behind to get a point at home to mid-table Oldham Athletic. Meaning that there are now just 2 points separating 3rd placed Colchester and 10th placed Forest Green in an exciting EFL League Two.
What a day of football! ?
Here's how it all looks after another dramatic round of fixtures ?
What a day! ?? pic.twitter.com/Qoh7oHSu5D
— Sky Bet League Two (@SkyBetLeagueTwo) November 24, 2018
Ugly: Replacement refs at The Den
Prior to matches, managers must be prepared for the opposition to make late changes to their squad, as well as during the game. They must then customise their team in order to effectively deal with the new threat.
However, bosses Neil Harris and Phil Parkinson wouldn’t have been prepared for what happened in the EFL Championship game between relegation rivals Millwall and Bolton Wanderers.
The strange events began before kick-off, when the assigned referee Tony Harrington pulled out of the game due to illness. This meant that assistant ref Lee Swabey had to step in to take charge of the game.
Then, just before the half-hour mark, Swabey picked up a calf injury, meaning he couldn’t continue in the middle. So he returned to his original role prior to kick-off, as another assistant took his place.
This turn of events meant that a Millwall supporter had roles as first a fourth official, then a linesman, showing how completely mad this situation was.
The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw, with Bolton scoring their first league goal for 378 minutes to move above Hull and into 22nd. Whilst Millwall remain above their opponents on goal difference alone.
Lee Swabey will now swap places with one of the linesman. The linesman is now the referee and the original replacement referee is now a linesman…?
— Bolton Wanderers FC (@OfficialBWFC) November 24, 2018