Sky Bet Championship round-up: Hornets close in on top spot whilst the slump in the East Midlands continues 
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

As we approach the Christmas period, the fixtures in the Sky Bet Championship continue to come thick and fast and with another round of fixtures kicking off in midweek, there's no time to dwell after another exciting round of matches. 

  • Sting in the tail

Watford 4-1 Preston North End 

Watford continued their impressive start to the campaign and moved up to third in the division, following a 4-1 dismantling of Alex Neil's Preston side. 

The Hornets primary aim will be returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking and yesterday's victory leaves them just one point outside of the automatic promotion places. 

Quina powered home the first of the afternoon before Troy Deeney cooly turned home a penalty and also provided the assist for Nathaniel Chalobah, who restored the hosts two-goal lead after Tom Barkhuizen halved the deficit to make it 2-1 on 55 minutes. 

19-year-old Joao Pedro rounded off the scoring to cap an impressive display for Vladimir Ivic's men as Watford extend their unbeaten run to five league matches. 

The Lilywhites slip to 18th position and need to address the defensive issues that have seen them concede 21 goals in their 14 matches thus far. 

  • Five goal thriller in West Yorkshire 

Huddersfield Town 3-2 Middlesbrough 

An action-packed game at the John Smith's Stadium saw Carlos Corberan's side steal all three points late on against a well organised Middlesbrough side, who boasted the best defensive record in the division before kick-off. 

The game sprung into life during the latter minutes of each half, with Josh Koroma having the final say for the Terriers

Neil Warnock's men started brightly and scored the opener of the encounter through Marvin Johnson. However, goals from Carel Eiting and Fraizer Campbell before half-time changed the dynamic of the match. 

Britt Assombalonga levelled things up with just seven minutes to spare from the penalty spot, but Huddersfield had their eyes set on a winner and Koroma provided just that to gift the Terriers their first win over Middlesbrough since 2013. 

The defeat sees Huddersfield climb to 13th, with Boro just three places above occupying 10th. 

  • Comfortable Cardiff 

Cardiff City 4-0 Luton Town 

Neil Harris' men have endured a poor start to the season, given the expectation of them before the 2020/21 season kicked off, however, Cardiff can take a catalogue of positives from their 4-0 thumping of Luton. 

The Bluebirds were two goals to the good inside 10 minutes, with Sean Morrison and Mark Harris putting the Hatters to the sword in the early exchanges, leaving Nathan Jones' side with a mountain to climb. 

Before kick-off, Harry Wilson was yet to register an assist since joining Cardiff on loan from Liverpool, but after his delivery to Morrison in the first half, the winger provided his second and Cardiff's third just before the hour mark. 

Sheyi Ojo capped off a well-rounded performance eight minutes from time and condemned Luton to their biggest defeat of the season. 

The Hatters have surprised many so far this season and remain in the top half. They will be keen to react to this defeat on Wednesday night but face a stern test against Norwich City

  • Rampant Reading 

Reading 3-1 Bristol City 

The Royals were one of three top-six sides that tasted victory this game week. After a run that has seen Reading slide from their perch at the top of the division, a win against fellow promotion rivals Bristol City is just what was needed for Veljko Paunovic's side. 

Reading were comfortable throughout the game and were good value for their win - a first in six league outings. 

Ovie Ejaria eventually opened up the Robins defence 10 minutes into the second but were pegged back against the run of play when Nahki Wells stabbed home on 73 minutes. 

Yakou Meite rightfully restored the hosts lead three minutes later and Lucas Joao added further gloss to the scoreline in second-half stoppage time. 

Both clubs occupy a play-off place in fifth and sixth position respectively and are in amongst the close-knit group currently vying for automatic promotion. 

  • Unable to put the Cherries on top 

Rotherham United 2-2 AFC Bournemouth 

Jason Tindall's side have been in fantastic form this season and came into this fixture on the back of three straight wins. 

With the knowledge that a win could guide them to the top of the tree, Junior Stanislas slotted the Cherries in front from the spot - to net his third in two games. 

Freddie Ladapo completely turned the game around, scoring a brace to notch the Millers in front against a confident visiting outfit. 

Bournemouth struck back through Dominic Solanke but were unable to add a third, as the points were shared at the New York Stadium. 

Rotherham were given very little chance of taking a point before the game and it's one that will be welcomed in their plight for survival - the Millers have accumulated 13 points from their opening 14 fixtures. 

Bournemouth will undoubtedly see the result as a missed opportunity to climb to the top of the table, however, they still remain 2nd and have a favourable run of fixtures ahead of them.

  • Coventry rescue a point 

Norwich City 1-1 Coventry City 

Late drama ensued at Carrow Road as Coventry left it until the final minute to rescue the point against the league leaders. 

As we approach the 15 game mark, Norwich are the early pacesetters and they will feel aggrieved that they're not further in front at the top after a frustrating afternoon. 

Daniel Farke's side are currently plagued with injuries and the German boss was forced into starting midfielder Marco Stiepermann as a loan striker. 

Mario Vrancic converted a penalty after 27 minutes and until the final minute Norwich had all three points secured but the Sky Blues battled back to claim a valuable point in their plea to beat the drop. 

Maxime Biamou's late strike was his first goal since February and first at this level and the French international ensured Mark Robins' side would travel back to the West Midlands with a point. 

The Sky Blues now face a run of fixtures against some of the clubs that occupy similar positions at the bottom of the division, in coming weeks. 

  • The one and only Ivan 

Brentford 2-1 QPR 

Ivan Toney continued his fine goalscoring exploits on Friday night as Brentford claimed the West London bragging rights and climbed to seventh. 

Vitaly Janelt opened his account in English football to give the Bees an early lead, however, Lyndon Dykes levelled matters 12 minutes later. 

Credit has to be given to Bright Osayi-Samuel who showed tremendous quality in the build-up to Dykes' strike for the Hoops

Brentford are yet to reach the heights of last season without their star assets but Toney stepped up once again and his goal made all the difference as the hosts ran out 2-1 victors in the first West London derby at the new Brentford community stadium

The result extends the Bees unbeaten run to seven matches but despite an upturn in form, Thomas Frank's men will be keen to turn draws in wins like this one. 

Brentford currently occupy seventh position and will be looking to close the gap on the top six even further when they travel to Rotherham on Tuesday evening. 

QPR's inconsistency leaves them fluctuating around the higher reaches of the bottom half of the table. 

  • Hughton, we have a problem!

Nottingham Forest 0-1 Swansea City 

Steve Cooper's Swansea City side continued their impressive start with a win at the City Ground against strugglers Nottingham Forest

The problems continue to mount for Chris Hughton's side who are now without a goal in their last three league matches and are slumped just one place above the relegation zone. 

Connor Roberts scored the only goal of the contest when the right midfielder rose higher than Sammy Ameobi to nod home just moments before half-time. 

Forest have an incredibly hard run of games ahead of them and need to find their feet soon after a shocking start. 

Swansea have enjoyed the opposite of that and are the best defensive side in the division, with their tight, compact and well-organised defence shipping just eight goals so far this season. 

  • Work to be done for Rooney 

Derby County 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers 

It was very much a game that had ‘six pointer’ written all over it, given both clubs start to the season. Both Derby and Wycombe needed a win to propel themselves up the table - but the points were shared at Pride Park

It was Wayne Rooney's first-ever match in charge of a club on the sidelines and he will have dreamt for a better start. 

Colin Kazim-Richards looked bright in attacking areas for the Rams and the experienced frontman was the provider for Duane Holmes who netted his first goal of the season. 

Matt Bloomfield has been a Wycombe player for the entirety of his career and the 36-year-old stabbed home the equaliser for the Chairboys with just 10 minutes left on the clock. 

After having the better of the chances before the interval, Derby rolled over and Wycombe were unlucky not to steal all three points late on. A point leaves Derby rooted to the bottom of the division, with their opponents sat two places above in 22nd. 

  • Upward trajectory for Rovers

Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Barnsley 

The Sky Bet Championship's leading marksman Adam Armstrong added yet another to his tally, to fire Rovers up into ninth. 

Tony Mowbray's side had slipped into the bottom half some weeks back but have since climbed into touching distance of the play-offs after a fantastic five-game unbeaten run. 

Armstrong netted his 13th of the season in spectacular fashion on the stroke of half-time - a beautiful strike that deserves goal of the weekend status. 

Sam Gallagher doubled the home sides advantage with 12 minutes to play before a nervy ending saw Barnsley's Romal Palmer net a consolation. 

  • Stalemate at Hillsborough 

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Stoke City 

The wait for Tony Pulis' first win as Sheffield Wednesday boss goes on following a goalless draw with Stoke

Pulis is a familiar face for the visitors after spending 10 years with the Potters across two separate spells in charge. 

The game was drab and didn't offer much attacking intensity, with Owls winger Kadeem Harris going closest for the hosts when he grazed the crossbar. 

Wednesday remain in the relegation spots and four points adrift of safety, whereas for Stoke they maintain pressure on the play-offs in eighth and a point behind sixth. 

  • Points shared at St Andrew's 

Birmingham City 0-0 Millwall

Millwall​​​​​​​ manager Gary Rowett will have been keen to return to St Andrew's and walk away with three points, but despite keeping a clean sheet his side were also unable to find the net in a dull fixture. 

These two sides have scored a combined 22 goals this season and it evidently showed in a game of few chances. 

The visiting Lions have kept pace with the top six for the majority of the campaign but now find themselves winless in six - meaning for a drop to 11th position. 

Aitor Karanka's Birmingham are also a team that are suffering from a poor run of form that they will look to outright in mid week when they welcome Barnsley to St Andrew's.