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Wednesday, 04 January 2012

The View Outside The Premier League: West Ham Close On Stuttering Saints And Leeds Leave It Late


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Sqf hugh larkin

In the Championship, the festive season has been defined by the teams at the head of the table all finding it difficult to make headway. Southampton have been especially wobbly and defeat at Brighton opened the door to their nearest rivals.

Middlesbrough came unstuck at Blackpool but West Ham eventually wore down a resurgent Coventry City side to go level on points with the long time leaders. This is the time of the season that Sam Allarydce was appointed for - grinding out critical results when the games come thick and fast is his stock in trade.

Typically, experienced skipper Kevin Nolan came up with the winner - exactly the role that Allardyce bought him for. Southampton have been the entertainers so far but the Hammers look like the team for the long haul.

Coventry can take heart from their narrow loss. Andy Thorn will have expected little from this fixture but if they can take this effort into future games they still have a chance of staying up.

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Accrington Stanley enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 win over Macclesfield to take the club to eleventh in the table. Life is always a struggle on the crowds that Stanley have to work with but John Coleman continues to get the most from his squad. He's now one of the longest serving bosses in the Football League and continues to try and have his teams play the right way.

Macclesfield are in a similar situation to Accrington. Both clubs have seen teams promoted from the Blue Square who have far more financial clout and holding on to a mid-table slot would be an achievement for both sides.

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Leeds may have turned round their season - and saved Simon Grayson's job if rumours are true - with two very late goals against Burnley. With three minutes of normal time left the Yorkshire side were staring at another loss to complete a miserable festive period.

The vital luck deserted the Clarets when Brian Easton turned a corner into his own net after 88 minutes - and it was seven minutes into injury time when Ross McCormack turned in the winner after keeper Grant couldn't hold a shot. Another defeat would have been a huge setback to hopes of promotion but this kind of result can inject belief into the dressing room.

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Sheffield Wednesday looked set to coast to victory after going two up on Tranmere Rovers after only seven minutes. The Birkenhead team dug in though and a late Ian Goodison goal left Owls fans sweating.

All finished well though and when they got back to the dressing room the players found out that Sheffield United went down at Carlisle and Huddersfield Town once again failed to close out the game at Notts County. Wednesday are one side who definitely enjoyed their festive fixtures.

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Doncaster Rovers won their South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley and Nottingham Forest pulled off a victory at Ipswich. With recent improvements by Bristol City and Coventry City, it's beginning to look like a rare dogfight to avoid the drop from the Championship. Ipswich and Millwall are right in the mire now.

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Hugh Larkin

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