EFL Reporter @simgholam
Sky Bet EFL: Five things to look out for this weekend
Another twist in the Championship promotion race, Preston pushing on and Paul Scholes hoping to make it two wins from two with Oldham.
Last Updated: 16/02/19 3:15pm
We cast our eye over five things to look out for in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two this weekend.
Another twist in the promotion race
Every time you think one of Leeds or Norwich will announce themselves as the class team in the Sky Bet Championship, they seem to turn in a result that gives the other the impetus again.
Norwich had enjoyed a superb period, thumping Leeds with a statement performance and then cruising past rivals Ipswich in what might be the last East Anglian derby in a fair while.
Then, however, came defeat at Preston on Wednesday night, while Leeds' victory over Swansea saw them move back to the top of the table. It also afforded Sheffield United the opportunity to close the gap on the pair, while the remaining sides in the top six all have a game in hand on the top three.
Wolves' romp to promotion last season meant that the league lead only changed hands nine times in the entire campaign. Come Saturday evening a result for the Canaries or the Blades would be the 23rd time we get a new leader before we have even reached March.
Preston pushing on
You wonder where Preston could be now in the table if they hadn't endured such a horrific start to the season.
Injuries played their part, no doubt, but a failure to win a game between their opening-day success over QPR and their 4-0 demolition of Wigan more than two months later in October meant reaching their potential was an uphill battle.
Since being beaten by West Brom in their final game of September Preston have lost just four games, and three of those came in a difficult spell over the festive period.
A 3-3 draw at Aston Villa on October 2 left them bottom of the table, but since then the Championship form table has them third overall. Only Norwich (42) and Leeds (39) have picked up more than Preston's 37 points in their last 21 games.
Nottingham Forest are the visitors to Deepdale on Saturday as Preston look to close the eight-point gap to the play-offs. They could make a late run still, but their form now suggests they could be looking back in May and wondering what might have been.
Bruce has rebuilt Wednesday's backline
It has not been a thrilling start to Steve Bruce's reign at Sheffield Wednesday.
Three games so far have garnered an almighty total of one goal, for or against, and that was a 90th-minute winner for Lucas Joao in his opener at Ipswich. Since, there have been goalless draws at home to Reading and away at Millwall.
Opta's definition of Expected Goals (xG)
Expected goals (xG) measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.
Adding up a player or team’s expected goals can give us an indication of how many goals a player or team should have scored on average, given the shots they have taken.
But with Wednesday now in that awkward position where they are unlikely to climb too high towards the top six or fall too low towards the bottom three, it is about building towards next season for Bruce, and there were defensive issues that desperately needed to be resolved.
It's a small sample size but Bruce appears to have already dramatically improved the Owls' rearguard. In the 28 games prior to his arrival they had an Expected Goals (xG) against average of 1.47 per game. Under Bruce it is already down to 0.64.
Up next is Rotherham, who have only failed to score twice at home this season, and those games were against promotion-chasing Bristol City and West Brom. They will provide a stern challenge to Bruce's restructured backline.
Continuity the key for Luton
Initially there were concerns that Nathan Jones' departure would lead to a decline in form for Luton Town. When the Welshman left for Stoke last month the club had just moved into the automatic promotion spots in League One following a run of 13 unbeaten games.
In stepped chief recruitment officer Mick Harford in a caretaker role, but little has changed and a draw with Sunderland has been followed by five straight wins.
LISTEN: EFL Matters podcast
Luton captain Alan Sheehan and Lee Hendrie join David Prutton in this week's EFL Matters.
Luton are now six points clear at the top of Sky Bet League One heading into their game at Fleetwood on Saturday, and earlier this week Harford was given the role until the end of the season.
"If it's not broken then there's no point in fixing it really," said Luton captain Alan Sheehan, who appeared on EFL Matters on Thursday. "Mick made it very clear when he came in as interim manager that we have our fixed methods that have been giving us success and there's no point in changing that. So we've just gone about our business.
"It's been a really good few years for the club on and off the pitch. We are in a great position and we've got a very strong squad that work very hard for each other, so long may that continue."
Scholes off the mark
In truth there barely could have been a more presentable task for Paul Scholes in his first game in charge than Yeovil at home - but it was still a big win all the same for him to get the ball rolling at Oldham.
Yeovil had been on a run of four straight defeats before their trip to Boundary Park, and that became five after a relatively convincing win for the Latics.
For Scholes it came as a huge relief. It is no secret that he has been up for this job a couple of times already and now he finally has it he would have been desperate for a good start. The fact they are still within reasonable distance of the play-offs means there is plenty still to play for this season as well.
"It's a relief and I may get some sleep tonight," said Scholes, who lives just a few minutes' drive from his boyhood club, after the game.
The Manchester United legend was only afforded one training session before that game on Tuesday night, so it will take a little bit more time to see what genuine impact he can have on the club. Crewe at home on Saturday provides him with a great opporunity to make it two wins from two.