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Top Six watch: Derby lose ground on promotion rivals

In the first of a new series, Alex Hendley assesses the top six’s results.

Leicester City 4-1 Derby County

Fourth placed Derby County tested their resolve against a rampant first placed Leicester City, who took the lead in the first half through Ritchie De Laet’s first goal in over a year.

Dominating the game, Leicester went 2-0 up through David Nugent’s lucky deflection, before De Laet put it past the wrong ‘keeper to drag the score back to 2-1. This was cancelled out abruptly through Nugent’s penalty kick (how many have they had now, five million?) and a final goal from Jamie Vardy saw the result to a comfortable finish – sending the Rams back home with their woolly tails between their tired legs.

The result saw Derby stay in fourth, though losing ground on all three teams above them, and saw Leicester consolidate their position at the top of the league with another three points. This result shows what form Leicester are in, and many would put them a sure cert for automatic promotion now.

However, Derby slip further behind City, Burnley and QPR, and need to win their next game against Brighton and Hove Albion if they want to stay in touch with the top.

Yeovil Town 1-2 Burnley

Another win for the mighty Clarets never fails to brighten my day. Placed second at the start of the weekend, Burnley looked to keep up with Leicester in a 3pm kick off against second bottom Yeovil Town.

In their first trip to Huish Park in their history, Burnley got off to a great start when super Danny Ings grabbed his 21st goal of the campaign with a stunning shot into Mark Stech’s net giving the Clarets a deserved lead at half time, despite Yeovil doing reasonably well in possession. Sam Vokes tapped in Dean Marney’s unselfish pull back to put the Clarets 2-0 up after hitting the post earlier on, to give Burnley a comfortable lead. Comfortable enough, in fact, to see out the victory despite Kieffer Moore’s effort bringing the score to 2-1 with just over ten minutes left.

This game showed Burnley’s credentials to the max, putting a weaker team to the edge of a 2-0 sword, and were able to grind out the result following a late scare. Burnley stay in touch with Leicester at the top of the pile and extend their gap down to sixth to eleven points. This game must truly be a symbol of the Sean Dyche reign, with swift attacks resulting in creating a comfortable lead, before seeing the game out to earn the three points that see Burnley retain an automatic promotion place.

Ipswich Town 1-3 Queens Park Rangers

QPR started the day in third place, looking to book their ticket to automatic promotion town should Burnley slip up, however that place as we’ve seen is otherwise reserved. However, ‘Arry had to take his wheeler dealing (how much money have they spent again?) R’s up to sixth placed Ipswich who were looking good themselves.

However, three goals in 23 second half minutes saw QPR create an unassailable lead through Niko Kranjcar, Gary O’Neil and Armand Traore. Despite Tommy Smith’s bicycle kick grabbing one back for the hosts, QPR still returned to London with an outstanding win away from home. Poor old Mick McCarthey, when will he stop getting “mullered” eh?

However, I still feel QPR are underachieving, with their money and players they should have won the league twice by now. Who knows the trouble they’ll be in if Redknapp doesn’t get them into the Premier League, however they did their best to make sure we never find out with this great result. QPR are breathing down Burnley’s promotion chasing neck and this result confirms they will do their best to steal our ticket.

Ipswich’s fortunes however took a downturn, dropping all the way to ninth after Brighton and Hove Albion took three points against Birmingham City to book their place in next week’s review.

Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Nottingham Forest

I conclude my round up of Top Six ups and downs at our near neighbours Bolton, who entertained fifth placed Nottingham Forest. Forest’s entertainment was kicked up a notch two minutes after half time when Jamie Paterson slotted them the lead, despite possibly being the worse team in the first half. Bolton came back stronger and their hard work paid off when Matt Mills headed in with 15 minutes to go and the Wanderers would hang on for the well-earned draw.

This game extended Forest’s unbeaten run to nine games and after thrashing West Ham 5-0 in the League Cup they are surely on the high rise right now. Despite Bolton underachieving, a point is a good point for Forest when you’re coming home from the Reebok and it consolidates their place in the play-offs, especially with all the swapping of places below them. They remain however, nine points off Burnley and with their next game against an (unfortunately) improving Blackburn Rovers side, they’ll need to keep striving for more.

Conclusions

Overall, a tough weekend for the Top Six, with many internal clashes and away games, saw five of the six unmoved. Boring eh? Not so boring, however, is Burnley’s automatic promotion place that they are holding on to; however my team to watch next week is unfortunately QPR. Back at Loftus Road, ‘Arry will want to take our place with a win against 12th Huddersfield Town.

How will the Top Six look in May? Comment below.

  1. Interesting to see how Derby respond to this setback – they looked unstoppable a couple of weeks ago which just goes to show how quickly things can change. Looks like Leicester’s title if they carry on as they are, but we’re sticking with them.

    Posted 7 months ago by Jamie Smith
  2. That is a bit too far ahead. Sheff Wed this Saturday should be what we are focussing on. They have multiple danger men, especially Conner Wickam. I strongly believe they will prove the greatest threat thus far to ending our unbeaten home record. This fixture could attract the highest home crowd of the season, and an high octane atmosphere. Hope we get a decent ref.

    Posted 7 months ago by donald cooper
    • Agree that SheffWed’s tabular location makes us vulnerable to premature assumptions regarding their lack of ability. A closer assessment reveals they are a genuinely improving side, bolstered and buoyed by their demolition of honour-lacking Leeds. We must be on our most vigilant guard…

      Posted 7 months ago by Ightenclaret
  3. 3 winnable games at home to SW & Brighton & away to Bolton before our trip to Loftus Road where Harry is after another striker. If Burnley are to challenge top spot again then Leicester surely need to stop being gifted easy game changing penalties which total a massive 12 halfway through the season.

    Posted 7 months ago by Steve Harris
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