With the Premier League taking a short break until New Year's Day, it was the turn of the pressure cooker that is the Championship to take centre stage last night in the hectic holiday season fixtures. The promotion chasing sides with their eyes on the glittering rewards in the Premier League were represented by Ipswich Town and Derby County; Leeds United and Wigan Athletic were in dire need of points down at the bottom;  and mid -table Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday would prefer to head towards the play-offs, but could equally get dragged down into a relegation dogfight later in the season.

Derby County 2 Leeds United 0

Leeds had Billy Sharp and Brazilian Adryan on the substitutes’ bench at the start of the match and encountered an assured display by Derby as they cruised to victory.

With Liverpool loanee Jordan Ibe lively down the left for Derby and causing a constant threat with his pace, it was slightly surprising that it took until the 41st minute before the home side took the lead. Derby had got round the back of United’s defence on several occasions during the first-half and did so again as Will Hughes’ broke clear down the left, his dangerous cut-back being turned into his own net by midfielder Alex Mowatt, as he belatedly tracked back.

With both sides looking to play the ball on the floor when they could, the match was a decent showcase for the Championship but ex- England boss Steve McClaren’s men always seemed to have the extra class on the night. They doubled their lead just after the break, when Jake Buxton got his head on a free-kick from Jeff Hendrick.

From thereon Derby were in cruise control and seemed content with their night’s work, although Ibe tried his luck with a long range effort towards the end which was almost spilled by the Leeds' keeper.

Derby climbed above Middlebrough into third place in the league as a result of the win, but are still two points shy of the automatic promotion places after Ipswich’s victory. Leeds remain just above the relegation zone and will need to pick up points soon to avoid a stressful New Year, but will have to manage with the players they already have on their books, due to a transfer embargo. Due to their failure to meet Financial Fair Play guidelines, they will not be able to sign any players for the rest of this season.

Ipswich Town 3 Charlton Athletic 0

Derby remain out of the automatic promotion places due to Ipswich’s continued run of form, as they comfortably defeated Charlton at Portman Road yesterday. The Tractor Boys’ win moved them back into second place and only a point behind leaders Bournemouth as the table looks to be taking shape.

They took the lead just after the half-hour mark, when defender Tommy Smith ventured forwards to scramble the ball home from close range. Daryl Murphy scored his 17th goal of the season after David McGoldrick had hit the bar, to stretch the home side’s advantage on 59 minutes and give the home fans some relief for the latter stages. McGoldrick himself netted the third in injury time with a neat chipped finish after being played in by Murphy, as Ipswich stretched their run to eleven games unbeaten in the league. The goal capped a fine display by McGoldrick, who had also twice hit the post in the first-half.

Wigan Athletic 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Wigan lost their twelfth league game of the season as they fell to Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu’s headed goal in the 77th minute, after Callum McManaman had been given a straight red card for the home side for a poor challenge on Owls’ defender Claude Dielna. McManaman was clearly keen to make an impression after coming on as a substitute, but lasted only nine minutes before he saw red for a crude sliding challenge. Even down to ten men, Malky Mackay’s side were unfortunate not to equalise late on, when Ivan Ramis saw his header come back off the post in what was a disappointing game overall with little quality on show over the ninety (plus) minutes.

The defeat leaves Wigan in a perilous position second from bottom and without a home win since August, with only Blackpool below them, while Wednesday continue to look upwards from their mid-table position and have at least half an eye on the play-off positions. 

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