There was a clear split in the fortunes of the Top Six as three teams won while three teams fell to defeat.
Leicester City 3-0 Ipswich Town
The league leaders produced a very impressive performance to see off Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys in fine fashion thanks to goals from Jamie Vardy, David Nugent and Chris Wood.
Leicester dominated the opening period, with Wes Morgan coming close before the deadlock was broken in the 19th minute by Vardy. The in form striker added his 12th of the season after rounding ‘keeper Dean Gerken and slotting home following a poor back pass from Jay Tabb.
Nugent then added the second of the afternoon, after Ritchie De Laet’s ball from the right hand side found him unmarked in the six-yard box, allowing him to tap in the striker’s 18th of the season. City failed to convert another chance before the break, but Ipswich remained very much under the cosh.
It took Leicester until the 88th minute to finish off their display, as substitute Wood (who came on for goalscorer Vardy) fired a powerful shot into the back of the net following some good work from Matty James. The goal finished off a rampant performance that means Leicester have now won ten of their last 12 league games and remain firm favourites for the title.
Burnley 3-1 Nottingham Forest
First half goals from Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes saw Burnley cruise to their most impressive victory since the 2-0 against QPR, despite Djamel Abdoun’s late consolation goal.
Arfield could have opened the scoring very early on, having a ball cleared off the line in just the fifth minute, but made no mistake 12 minutes in by thrashing the ball past the helpless Karl Darlow after beating Danny Fox with a cute nutmeg.
Vokes then doubled Burnley’s lead 22 minutes in as Kieran Tripper provided yet another assist, placing a magnificent cross on to Big Sam’s head at the back post who finished with aplomb.
And Forest’s first half misery was completed with ten minutes of the half remaining as Vokes deflected shot beat the unfortunate Darlow to stretch the Clarets’ lead to three, provoking a less-then-happy response from the Forest faithful.
Forest threw the kitchen sink at Burnley, but Tom Heaton was up to the challenge, despite needing Trippier to clear off the line from a Jamaal Lascelles header, until Abdoun’s effort ten minutes from time.
It almost wasn’t to be for the Algerian, whose penalty was saved by Heaton, however he was first to get to the rebound and made no mistake with his second attempt.
The result was an outstanding one for Sean Dyche’s men, as QPR fell further behind the chase and the Clarets keep hold of the dreamed of automatic promotion place, despite Derby County being just two points off the pace.
Derby County 1-0 Bournemouth
A late Chris Martin goal was needed to see a lacklustre Derby side defeat Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth and keep them in the chase for automatic promotion.
And it was the Cherries who started the brighter, coming close in the 16th minute when Matt Ritchie hit the bottom of Lee Grant’s post from 18 yards, before Lewis Grabban shot just wide four minutes later.
Derby made it to half time without conceding, and Steve McClaren tried to change things by bringing on Connor Sammon and Simon Dawkins for the second period. It looked to have worked throughout the half as Sammon’s shot had to be saved by Lee Camp, before Johnny Russell almost made the breakthrough in the 67th minute but his shot was cleared off the line.
The goal finally came after Derby’s pressure paid off. Will Hughes earned a free-kick just outside the area, before Chris Martin stepped up to curl his 20-yard dead ball up and over the wall into Camp’s net with five minutes remaining.
The result was important for County, as they needed to keep up with Burnley and ahead of QPR and Forest, but Bournemouth’s sterling performance shows that Derby can be tamed which will give Burnley confidence for their upcoming fixture against them.
Charlton Athletic 1-0 QPR
Charlton scored a stoppage time goal to send Harry Redknapp’s team to their second defeat in as many games as QPR fell off the promotion pace again.
The home team could have taken the lead in the 12th minute, as Jordan Cousins’ 30-yard effort cracked the left hand post, before the Iranian Reza Ghoochannejhad’s rebound also struck the woodwork.
Ghoochannejhad had another chance later on, but could only direct his header straight at Rob Green, after Kevin Doyle had had a shot blocked at the other end. It continued to not be QPR’s day, as first new loan signing Ravel Morrison fired wide from 14 yards, before Modibo Maiga rounded the Charlton ‘keeper, but lost control of the ball and it rolled out of play harmlessly.
The Addicks made the R’s pay in the 92nd minute when Johnnie Jackson’s header beat Rob Green following an Astrit Ajdarevic (Charlton operate a strict complicated name policy) corner. This result means QPR are now seven points behind Burnley in second, and also just seven points off the bottom of the play-off places.
Reading 0-1 Blackburn Rovers
Reading fell foul to their horrid inconsistency problem yet again, as they went down 1-0 at home thanks to a Craig Conway goal which saw Rovers beat the side who had comprehensively defeated QPR less than a week earlier.
The first half contained little, bar the goal, as the two sides found it difficult to register any clear attempts on goal. Jobi McAnuff came closest for Reading, who cut inside from the left wing just to shoot a tame shot into the hands of the untroubled Paul Robinson.
The goal then came for Rovers, who made a break away following a Reading free-kick, and Conway (fed by Jordan Rhodes) fires a cross-cum-shot that was wildly deflected by Jobi McAnuff past ‘keeper Alex McCarthy.
Rovers continued to threaten, Rhodes himself coming trying to double the lead moments after the goal, but this time McCarthy produced the save.
Nigel Adkins made a bold move just after the hour mark, bringing on Hal Robson-Kanu, Royston Drenthe and Danny Guthrie all at once, and Drenthe’s switch almost paid off. The former Real Madrid man shot wide after Jordan Obita’s cross soon after the substitution, before shooting over the crossbar towards the end.
Blackburn held on for the three points which sees them climb to just (unfortunately) four points off Reading in sixth as they try to mount a serious promotion push. However, Reading are now 13 points behind the Clarets, and seem too inconsistent to make a true attack on the top two.
Will Reading’s inconsistency cost them in the promotion race? How much confidence has Burnley’s result day given you? Comment below.