Championship wrap: Leicester end QPR’s unbeaten Loftus Road run
Championship wrap: Leciester City inflict QPR's first league loss at Loftus Road this season. Ben Barker reports
Leicester cap tough week on high
During the busy festive period, it’s important to pick up as many points as you can to put yourself in the best position come the new year and final half of the season. Credit must go to Leicester City then, for overcoming a particularly white-knuckle set of fixtures in the week leading up to Christmas. The Foxes faced top-of-the-table Burnley last Saturday and gained a credible draw before welcoming Manchester City in the midweek League Cup clash. This weekend they travelled to face the new table-toppers QPR, a side yet to lose at home this season. A match of spirit and attacking flair ensued, but the game was ultimately settled by Jamie Vardy’s wonderful strike just before half-time. Minutes after Liam Moore had cleared Niko Kranjcar’s goal-bound effort off the line, Kasper Schmeichel launched a goal-kick upfield and Vardy latched onto it, taking one touch on his chest before racing past Rangers defender Richard Dunne and smashing the ball past Rob Green. For all QPR’s possession, it was a route one pass which led to their defeat. Charlie Austin had several chances to grab the equaliser late on, but a combination of unfortunate bounce and excellent defending meant QPR’s unbeaten home run was ended, and Leicester City held their own against two of their main promotion rivals.
First-ever goalless draw in Yorkshire derby
Barnsley’s hopes of remaining in the division have been placed firmly on the shoulders of former (and now current) boss Danny Wilson, and it was baptism of fire for the new man in charge as he took the Tykes up to Elland Road for a tough derby. The visitors were fortunate that the normally reliable Matt Smith missed two early opportunities for Leeds, thanks to the heroics of England goalkeeper Jack Butland. Barnsley offered very little going forward – a standard of their game which underlines their league position – but could have taken the lead through Marcus Tudgay, who held off Marius Zaliukas brilliantly but poked the ball past both Paddy Kenny and the post. Tudgay and Barnsley would later rue that miss, as desperation set in and in his desire to get the ball the striker went over and landed a high tackle on Danny Pugh, forcing referee Keith Stroud to produce a red card. Leeds couldn’t capitalise on the man advantage, and the result signalled the first ever 0-0 draw between the two sides. Wilson has plenty on his plate to get Barnsley playing well enough to get themselves out of the relegation zone, while Brian McDermott will have been frustrated that his side couldn’t consolidate their position in the playoffs with another three points.
Seven on the spin for Steve
Things are going swimmingly at Derby. Since the arrival of Steve McClaren at Pride Park back in September, the Rams have lost just once and marked a seventh consecutive win on Saturday against a woeful Doncaster side. The visitors gifted Derby the lead when Luke McCullough left a bouncing ball for too long and allowed Chris Martin to nip past him and play in Jamie Ward for his second goal in as many games. McCullough made another mistake when he pushed Martin in the box, but was spared further blushes by Ross Turnbull who saved the resulting spot kick. Doncaster were without a win in three, but very nearly equalised shortly after the break. In their desire to score, Doncaster left their already lacking defence short, and Derby broke away to score a second. From defending to attacking in under five passes, Simon Dawkins used his pace to break free and slot under Turnbull just five minutes into the second half. The match got interesting when Jake Buxton headed into his own net on the hour mark, but with Derby in the rich vein of form of recent weeks there was never any worry about the result. Chris Martin once again was the provider, slotting a perfect pass through for Craig Bryson to beat Turnbull and seal the points. Derby have now taken 28 points from a possible 33 under McClaren, and sit a mere three off the summit.