It was another thrilling afternoon of action in the EFL as we move towards the final months of the season, with plenty to play for at both ends of the divisions.
Barnsley strike late as their incredible run continues
The Vitality Stadium played host to a crucial game in terms of the championship play offs, with visitors Barnsley edging out Jonathan Woodgate’s Bournemouth in what was a thrilling encounter on the South Coast.
Despite falling behind early on, it was Bournemouth who went in at half time 2-1 up, with goals from Arnaut Danjuma and Dominic Solanke cancelling out Michal Helik’s opener for the visitors.
Varelian Ismael made a triple substition in search of a reaction early in the second half, and it certainly did the trick as Dominik Fraser levelled for the Tykes on the hour mark.
Barnsley have only failed to win once since the end of January, and this winning mentality may well have been the thing that got them over the line. With the game entering the final stages substitute Carlton Morris headed home from an Alex Mowatt corner.
The full time celebrations in the away technical area really emphasised the importance of that goal, moving Barnsley level on points with Reading, and perhaps even more crucially, five points clear of opponents Bournemouth, giving them breathing space within the play offs.
No one would’ve predicted Ismael’s side to be in the promotion picture at this stage of the season, what a job he has done at Oakwell during this campaign.
Masina free kick gives the Hornets a crucial victory in South Wales
Watford left it late, but did get the job done as they visited play off chasing Cardiff City, winning the game deep into stoppage time through Adam Masina.
It was Mick Mccarthy’s side who started the better, taking the lead within 15 minutes, although they needed a big helping hand from Watford Centre Back Francisco Sierralta, as he put the ball into his own net early on.
The Hornets did not dwell on this setback however, as just one minute later they levelled it up due to some individual brilliance from Nathaniel Chalobah. When the midfielder picked the ball up on the edge of the box the Cardiff defence looked to have the danger sorted, but some tricky footwork allowed Chalobah half a yard of room, and that was all he needed as he drilled home past Dillon Phillips to make it 1-1.
The remaining 75 minutes were extremely scrappy, lacking real quality as it looked as if the game would peter out giving each side a point. This changed deep into injury time however as the visitors were awarded a free kick around 20 yards from goal. Adam Masina struck it well but straight at Phillips in the home goal who bizarrely seemed to dive out of the way of the ball, missing it with his hand and allowing it to sail into the net.
It was a pretty embarrassing moment for the keeper, and one that will have left his manager bemused at. It may have come with a slice of fortune, however the Watford players did not seem to care as the celebrations were wild with the whole squad running over to manager Xisco. It was a crucial goal, one which leaves them level on points with Swansea, while Cardiff now sit seven points off sixth.
Rochdale end winless run against high flying Imps
The Dale travelled to Sincil Bank bottom of League One and without a win since January, however, the visitors defied all the odds to claim a stunning away victory that puts them within touching distance of safety.
Oliver Rathbone gave Rochdale the lead midway through the first half with a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Michael Appleton’s Lincoln side levelled however, when Morgan Rogers equalised on the hour mark. Most would’ve expected the hosts to kick on and use their momentum to good effect, but it was the visitors who took the game by the scruff of its neck and retook the lead through Steven Humphrys with just a quarter of hour left.
Lincoln could not find a way past Gavin Bazunu in the Rochdale goal in the remaining minutes, as the away side held on for a memorable victory on the road.
Dale now sit just two points off safety, while Lincoln’s automatic promotion hopes were heavily dented as they failed to capitalise on the fact that Peterborough didn’t play.
Kane Hemmings continues Burton’s incredible run as they cruise past Crewe
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank has made a huge impact since his return to Burton and they carried on with their fine form as they blew away Crewe in the first half with a Kane Hemmings hat trick.
The Brewers had won their last six games, and this momentum seemed to just be carried into this fixture as they were three goals to the good within 34 minutes, with the Crewe defence being unable to cope with frontman Hemmings.
The hosts never really recovered from this, with their second half performance being more focused on damage limitation rather than trying to recover any points.
Crewe still sit comfortably in 13th, with Burton moving seven points adrift of safety, which seems pretty unbelievable given the position the side were in a few months ago.
Carlisle stop the rot as Bradford’s slump continues
The Cumbrians got a first win in nine at they beat Bradford who, after going on a great run, are now winless in their last three games.
United took control of the match in a two minute spell shortly before half time, firstly with Rhys Bennett giving them the lead and then Offrande Zanzala putting the hosts two goals up.
Zanzala got his third ten minutes after the interval, and despite Bradford pulling one back shortly after, the result never looked in real doubt after the third went in.
Mark Trueman certainly does have something to think about after having almost constant success since taking over, with his side drifting further and further off the pace of their play off rivals.
Meanwhile, Carlisle leapfrogged their opponents with the victory and also have plenty of games in hand over the teams above them, so are in with a fighting chance along as they can use this result to gain some momentum after their poor run in recent months.
featured image credit watfordfc.com