EFL Reporter @simgholam
Sky Bet EFL: Five things to look out for on Saturday
Derby's February woes strike again, Said Benrahma lighting up the Championship with Brentford and Port Vale need to make a statement on the pitch.
Last Updated: 01/03/19 10:44pm
We cast our eye over five things to look out for in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two this weekend.
Derby looking flat under Lampard
Derby County hate February. In the past three seasons they have one just two games in 16 attempts during the month, losing eight league places in total in the process.
Of bigger concern to Frank Lampard will be how flat his team have looked in recent games. Maybe decent runs in both cup competitions and the possession of a relatively slim squad is starting to catch up with the Rams.
It doesn't help that Harry Wilson and Jack Marriott have gone off the boil in recent weeks and Mason Mount and Tom Lawrence have been injured, but if you saw their performances at Manchester United and Chelsea earlier in the season you would scarcely believe it was the same side that fell so meagerly to defeat at Nottingham Forest on Monday night.
Even Lampard himself has looked slightly tired lately, having taken charge of 41 games and with 13 more to come. He has, however, tried to remain upbeat. "I have confidence in the squad," he told Derby's official website. "Even though we are at a moment where we haven't got as many points as we would have liked in the last few games, it doesn't change the fact that if you are in form that is not quite as it was, certainly from the really good performances we have put in in big parts of the season, we have to work our way out of it."
Perhaps a trip to Aston Villa, where he will be in the opposite dugout to his former team-mate John Terry, will help liven him up a bit.
The Griffin Park Messi
While Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins were stealing all the headlines for Brentford in the early parts of the season, there is no doubt that Said Benrahma has since emerged as their key man.
Signed in the summer, the Algerian 23-year-old had a relatively low key start to life in west London, but a shift in formation around the turn of the year has triggered a remarkable run of performances - he has been directly involved in 12 goals in that time (six goals, six assists), including one of the finest hat-tricks you will see against Hull at the weekend.
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"I trained with him and I know it's a big shout but he is a little bit like Lionel Messi in the way he can run with the ball with pace," said former Brentford player Sam Saunders, who was a guest on EFL Matters on Thursday. "It just doesn't leave his foot, it's like it's velcroed on.
"He's been involved in 12 goals this year, which says a lot about his confidence and the way he's playing."
Benrahma struggled alongside the rest of his side as they were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night. But Brentford are a totally different proposition at home, and QPR could be the next side to suffer at the hands of his abundant talent at Griffin Park on Saturday.
Championship fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
Another thriller at Southend?
The Sky Sports cameras enjoyed their last trip to Roots Hall so much that they simply couldn't wait to go back as quickly as possible.
Portsmouth were three up and cruising at Southend a fortnight ago, but an incredible second-half rally and hat-trick from Simon Cox meant it finished 3-3.
Pompey will certainly be hoping Southend do them a favour against Barnsley, live on Sky Sports Football. The Tykes currently occupy second spot in Sky Bet League One but are being hunted down by Sunderland and Kenny Jackett's side.
Barnsley are unbeaten in 14 games ahead of their trip, but their momentum has slightly dissipated somewhat after back-to-back goalless draws.
Bradford on the search again
If you include caretakers, Bradford City have now had as many managers since the start of 2018 as they had in the first 27 years of their existence.
That is the reality of modern football, with David Hopkin's departure leaving Martin Drury in temporary charge for their clash against Portsmouth on Saturday.
Stuart McCall's departure last February saw Simon Grayson in until the end of the season. Michael Collins then lasted just six games at the start of this campaign before Hopkin took over.
A brief festive run of four wins in five, including 13 goals scored, provided hope of survival, but that optimism quickly dissipated and they are now second bottom, three points from safety, with 12 games to play.
"I am disappointed but feel the time is right for me to step aside and allow someone to come in and attempt to keep the club in League One," said Hopkin. It won't be easy either. Six of their next seven games are against sides currently in the top nine, and the other is a trip to relegation rivals Oxford.
League One fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
Port Vale hoping to make a statement on the pitch
As club statements go it was one of the more interesting ones. Clearly feeling hard done by after a David Worrall strike was disallowed in their 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham at the weekend, someone at Port Vale decided it was time to take to their website to complain about refereeing decisions.
"So far this season, Port Vale have had confirmed from MOAS (Match Official Administration System) that several key decisions have gone against the club during matches. This has ranged from penalties awarded against us and penalties wrongfully not awarded in favour of us," part of the statement read, before then going on to list the seven incidents this season they felt have gone against the club.
It is understandable that some strain is being felt. Vale have won once since November, and have lost their last four on the spin since the arrival of new boss John Askey.
They now find themselves just three points above the Sky Bet League Two drop zone and within striking distance of Macclesfield and Notts County - the latter of whom they travel to on Saturday.
A good performance against an equally, if not more, beleaguered side could provide some vital momentum before the run-in. It's time for them to do their talking on the pitch.