The View Outside The Premier League: Southampton Lose Again While Bristol Rovers Stage Goal of the Season
Saturday's Championship results would have delighted the bookmakers as both Southampton and West Ham United went down to unexpected defeats. Middlesbrough and Leeds United were both beneficiaries as the top two lost, while Doncaster's victory threw more gloom towards Coventry City.
Nigel Adkins has expressed some concern about the Saints away form as this was a second successive loss to a team in the bottom three. Bristol City were on something of a roll but losing at the Keepmoat is certainly a serious blow to Southampton's confidence.
Doncaster's unusual strategy for survival is beginning to pay dividends. A number of ex-Premier League players in contact with super-agent Willie McKay have signed on in South Yorkshire, as a way of returning to the shop window.
El Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda weren't involved on Saturday but Dean Saunders could still select the likes of Habib Beye, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Herita Ilunga; all offer vital experience and Premier League know-how. These are the sort of signings that Andy Thorn would die for.
With both Bristol City and Doncaster Rovers on an upsurge, Coventry City crashed to the bottom on Saturday. The most depressing aspect of the Sky Blues season is the sheer number of single goal defeats they have suffered - only Southampton amd Millwall have really torn their defence apart.
Thorn's team have now been beaten 2-1 in three of their last four games and the other one ended 1-1. On one hand it shows there is hope for the future, on the other there is a lack of professional edge when it really matters.
West Ham were downed at home by resurgent Burnley, though Sam Allardyce took a phlegmatic view after the game as he felt his side had performed well despite the final result. Eddie Howe looked like a man witha huge weight lifted from him as his side have taken a nine point maximum from three tough games.
It still looks unlikely that the Clarets will feature in the play-offs and equally West Ham still appear to be the team who can chase down Southampton. There may have been doubts when Allardyce came on the scene but he's never a manager who has any doubts about how he wants his teams to play.
He cut his cloth accordingly at Bolton but at Upton Park he's allowing Mark Noble, Jack Collison and others to do what they are good at, after putting in Kevin Nolan to add steel and grit. Southampton have impressed with their football but the Hammers may have the blend to go the distance.
No League One and Two action because of the FA Cup Second Round. Yeovil Town belied their poor form but producing a solid performance at high-flying Fleetwood, where many pundits (including this one) expected an upset. Fleetwood did battle back from two goals down to force a replay though.
Poor AFC Totton must wonder how they ended up on the end of a 6-1 scoreline at home to Bristol Rovers. Paul Buckle's side have struggled in League Two but decided to put on a display of finishing that wouldn't have been out of place at Old Trafford, White Hart Lane or the Etihad. Rovers reward is a home tie with Aston Villa.
Paulo Di Canio's Swindon side maintained their excellent run of form by winning at Colchester and the fiery Italian also has the chance to take on Premier League opponents when struggling Wigan come to the County Ground.
In form Chelmsford City couldn't quite see off Macclesfield Town and must go to a replay at the Moss Rose. There's a big incentive for both sides as they came out of the hat with Bolton Wanderers.