EFL Reporter @simgholam
Sky Bet EFL: Five things to look out for on Saturday
West Brom's home hoodoo, the Championship Golden Boot race and MK Dons adding heat to League Two promotion battle.
Last Updated: 09/03/19 12:57pm
We cast our eye over five things to look out for in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two this weekend.
West Brom need to end home hoodoo
Given the opportunity to lay down something of a marker against two of their rivals for automatic promotion in their last two games, West Brom failed dismally on both occasions.
First, there was the 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield United, a game in which they failed to make much of an impression in an attacking sense, then there was the 4-0 mauling at Leeds.
The Baggies put in arguably their performance of the season against Leeds in November as they thumped them 4-1 at The Hawthorns, but Marcelo Bielsa clearly learned his lesson from that afternoon - as they took the lead after 16 seconds and never looked back.
Of equal concern to Darren Moore will be the fact West Brom have won just once at home since that game, and that was on Boxing Day against Wigan, a side with the joint-worst record on the road in the Championship this season.
The other side to have picked up just six points away all campaign are Ipswich, and they are the visitors to West Brom on Saturday. It provides the Baggies with an ideal opportunity to win in front of their own fans again and get back on track.
Still hope for Bolton?
It has been another bleak week for Bolton Wanderers. More turbulent times off the pitch briefly made it seem as though their match with Millwall wouldn't go ahead, but now those problems have been temporarily resolved the club need to turn their focus back to matters on the pitch.
Bolton are seven points off safety and eight behind Millwall, making this a near make-or-break clash for Phil Parkinson and his men in their fight for survival. Their former striker Marvin Sordell, however, believes there is still hope for the club.
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"They are not relegated yet, there are still 11 games left and 33 points to play for, so there is every chance they can still stay up," he told EFL Matters on Thursday.
"You get to a point in a season where relegation feels inevitable, so you think you may as well have a go regardless and then anything can happen and you start to see teams pick up points and wins. Then the feel of the club changes and all of a sudden."
Three points on Saturday and a miracle escape could still be on.
Championship fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
FT: Norwich 1-0 Swansea (Fri)
Blackburn vs Preston (Sat 12pm)
Sheffield United vs Rotherham (Sat 12.15pm)
Bolton vs Millwall
Bristol City vs Leeds
Derby vs Sheffield Wednesday
Middlesbrough vs Brentford
Nottingham Forest vs Hull
QPR vs Stoke
Reading vs Wigan
West Brom vs Ipswich
Birmingham vs Aston Villa (Sun 12pm)
A vintage year for goalscorers
Neal Maupay's goal for Brentford against QPR last week made him the fifth player this season to reach 20 goals in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Bees forward joins Teemu Pukki (24), Billy Sharp (22), Che Adams and Tammy Abraham (both 21) in reaching the landmark, making it a truly vintage year for goalscorers in the second tier already.
Last season just two players made it to 20, and top scorer Matej Vydra managed 21 in the entire campaign, while only two of the last 10 seasons (eight in 2013/14 and six in 2014/15) have seen more players hit the landmark than already have this year.
But could that tally of eight be beaten this year? There is no reason why Jarrod Bowen (18), Jay Rodriguez (17), Oli McBurnie and Dwight Gayle (both 16) can't reach that in the final 11 rounds of the season and get us up to nine.
Whether anyone can beat Glenn Murray's haul of 30 for Crystal Palace from 2012/13, however, remains to be seen.
Rochdale looking over the Hill
The departure of Keith Hill from Rochdale this week means that all four clubs in the League One drop zone heading into the weekend have gambled on sacking their manager this season. Some, in Bradford's case, are now on the hunt for their third boss of the season.
It is always a shame to see a long-serving manager depart. Hill had been at Rochdale for just over six years in his second stint at the club, and had previously been in charge for nearly five more between 2006 and 2011.
One has to wonder what the genuine ambitions are for a club with one of the smallest budgets in League One are, especially when you consider the fact Hill has been responsible for two of the three Football League promotions in their entire history.
"It has been the most difficult decision that the board has had to make," said a club statement on Monday. "But it is felt that, due to results on the pitch, a new direction is needed."
You imagine "a new direction" means a desperate swing at their next five fixtures, starting with struggling Shrewsbury at home on Saturday and followed by four other sides in the bottom half of the table.
League One fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
MK Dons add heat to promotion race
It was looking for a while like it was going to become a three-horse race for three automatic promotion spots in Sky Bet League Two, but MK Dons now firmly rejoined the party.
A troubling run of just two wins in 10 games between December 22 and February 8 saw Paul Tisdale's side drop right off the pace, but four wins on the spin since have seen them move right back onto the tails of the leaders.
MK now find themselves just two points behind Mansfield in third and five off Bury in second, with a game in hand on the Shakers, which should help stir things up a bit at the top.
League Two fixtures (Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated)
On Saturday they head to Macclesfield - whose resurgence under Sol Campbell has halted in recent weeks - with hopes of claiming the three points to jump back into the top three.
Mansfield and Bury have winnable games at Port Vale and Stevenage respectively, but everything always gets a bit more difficult when there is a bit of pressure coming up behind you. It is set to be a fascinating race.