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Championship Chat: Vardy a shining light

James Marshment hails Jamie Vardy as the division's best, but has sympathy for Brian McDermott and Stuart Holden in this week's Champ Chat.

Last Updated: 13/03/14 at 22:44 Post Comment

The Sky Bet Championship is often overlooked for the glamour and glitz of the Premier League, but there's much to be celebrated in the second tier as we find out in this weekly Thursday column.

The race for promotion, and the bid to stay in the second tier, is likely to be as competitive as ever, as we examine all the key talking points from the weekend, and also take a look at what's to come in the matches ahead.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the story comment box, below, or follow me on Twitter here.

To see all the latest Championship goals, click here.

Goal of the week: Dale Jennings, Barnsley v Nottingham Forest

Picking up the ball on the left touchline, Jennings skipped inside two challenges before drilling a low 25-yard strike past Karl Darlow to give the Tykes' relegation battle a much-needed shot in the arm.

Worthy of mentions: Jamie Vardy's first, Leicester v Barnsley; Royston Drenthe, Reading v Leeds; Rudi Austin, Leeds v Reading; Ravel Morrison's first, QPR v Birmingham; Ishmael Miller's second, Yeovil v Sheffield Wednesday.

Team of the week: (4-3-1-2) Adam Bogdan; Kieran Trippier, Jason Shackell, Kenneth Omeruo, Stephen Ward; Danny Drinkwater, Neil Danns, Royston Drenthe; Ravel Morrison; Jamie Vardy, Billy Sharp.

Special mention this week goes to Reading winger Royston Drenthe, who finally opened his Royals account in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Brighton.

The former Real Madrid winger soon followed up on his maiden strike with his second, curling home a brilliant free-kick in their resounding 4-2 win at troubled Leeds.

Quote of the week: Nigel Pearson on Leicester's cruise to promotion

Foxes manager Nigel Pearson has taken the Foxes to the brink of promotion to the Premier League, with Tuesday's 3-0 win at Barnsley putting them a formidable 15 points clear of third-placed Derby.

The level-headed Pearson, however, is determined to keep his players' focused as they strive to end a 10-year hiatus from the top flight.

"We've a long way to go, we've put ourselves in a strong position and we're pleased with the win," he said. "We've worked hard to get to the top of the league and we want to try and do everything we can to stay there.

"We're not virtually there, we want to try and win every game that we play. We won't do it, of course, but that's what we've tried to do every time we've played and we'll try and have that same approach to games from here on in.

"I don't know what the total will be that's required to get automatic promotion, or to win the title, but we'll do everything we can to accrue as many points as we can and we'll see where it takes us."

Player of the week: Billy Sharp, Doncaster

Billy Sharp's return to the Keepmoat Stadium in January will have given all at the club renewed belief that survival is possible for Paul Dickov's side.

And two goals in as many games certainly prove that hope is justified as Donny claimed morale-boosting back-to-back wins over Huddersfield and Watford.

His strike on Saturday (the opener in the 2-0 win over Town) was a typical poacher's effort, but it was his priceless injury-time winner against Watford on Tuesday night that could prove vital come the end of the season; the striker again on hand to tuck home a rebound from close range.

Gaffe of the week: Jason Pearce & Jack Butland, Leeds

Leeds are struggling enough at the back without gifting the opposition 'free' goals, but the breakdown in communication between the usually-composed Pearce and Butland was as embarrassing as it was amateurish, the pair leaving the ball to one another and allowing Garath McCleary the simple task of rolling the ball into an unguarded net.

Game of the week: Barnsley 0 Leicester 3

It wasn't just the result that said so much about Leicester, but it was their exemplary performance that caught the eye as the club stretched their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship to eight points.

Leicester have been nigh-on unstoppable since the turn of the year, with Jamie Vardy's double taking his record to five goals from his last four matches.

He opened the scoring midway through the first half and then sealed a comprehensive victory for the East Midlands side shortly after Danny Drinkwater had doubled Leicester's lead just before the hour mark.

Much has been written about the goalscoring exploits of Ross McCormack and Danny Ings this season, but Vardy, for me, has been the division's outstanding striker this season and looks the most-capable of shining in the Premier League, given his outstanding movement, pace, power, tenacity, understanding of the game and goalscoring ability.

Watch highlights of the game in the video above.

Result of the week: Derby 0 Millwall 1

Being a betting man, I can only imagine the number of coupons this result broke at the weekend. That, of course, will matter little to Ian Holloway and his Millwall team, who are among those desperately seeking victories to ensure their survival in the division.

A trip to in-form Derby has yielded little reward for visiting sides of late, and although they rode their luck, Steve Morison's winner was rich reward for the Lions' endeavour and proved the point that the Championship is the country's most unpredictable division.

Disappointment of the week: Leeds United

Leeds United are clearly the gift that keeps on giving at the moment, and nine goals shipped in two home games is certainly testimony to the troubles currently engulfing the club.

With prospective-owner Massimo Cellino telling the club he won't put any more cash into the club until his takeover is approved and Brian McDermott blaming the takeover uncertainty on disappointing results it seems the situation at Leeds is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Amid mounting calls for McDermott to be sacked, I'd like to say that I'm still behind the manager and would not benefit from a change at this stage in the season. OK, so there might be an immediate reversal of fortunes, but until the deep-rooted issues at the club are resolved, Leeds will find themselves treading water.

In different circumstances, McDermott could yet prove a success at Leeds. The club must now put all their energies into getting this resolved, the players must stay focused and professional, and although this season is another write-off for the club, whose to say next year, can't be Leeds' year.

Celebration of the week: Danny Graham, Middlesbrough

After a club drought stretching more than 12 long hours, it was little wonder Danny Graham looked like he didn't know what to do with himself when the wait was finally over.

Tucking in from close range against Ipswich, Graham ran one way, then the other before rejoicing with three jubilant Boro fans in the stands.

His second goal, and subsequent celebration, was slightly more refined, a trademark knee slide into the arms of provider Grant Leadbitter.

Hot topic of the week: Chris Powell's sacking

After leading the club back into the Championship two seasons ago, and into the FA Cup quarter-finals this season, the sacking of club legend Powell, on the surface at least, appears a little harsh.

However, the Addicks have been underperforming all season and, despite having up to four games in hand on some of their rivals, currently prop up the table and a return to the third tier looks inevitable.

Powell's dismissal comes less than a week after he'd agreed terms on a new contract and with former Standard Liege boss Jose Riga quickly drafted in, the Addicks weren't in the mood to hang around.

I'm not sure Riga's appointment will halt their freefall back into League One, but at the very least I think Powell deserved the season to at least see if he could achieve safety.

As a club legend, who had agreed a new contract, I think that's the least he deserved.

One final thought: Poor old Stuart Holden

Some players are just born unlucky - and the plethora of injuries Bolton's Stuart Holden has suffered perhaps make him the most unfortunates of unfortunates.

I doubt anyone was really surprised to see the American ruled out once again for a minimum of six months on Tuesday, but I'm certain there'll be no shortage of sympathy for the unlucky midfielder.

You do fear for the player's long-term career prospects after suffering yet another setback, but hopefully this isn't the end of his career that has already suffered so many cruel blows.

What's to come...

League One takes the focus this weekend with two games for your viewing pleasure:

Live on Sky:

Leyton Orient v Brentford, Saturday 12.15pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports 1HD

Preston v Sheffield United, Monday 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports 1HD

By James Marshment, follow me on Twitter here.

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