Championship roundup: Warnock says Watford will walk promotion after Boro draw
Neil Warnock tipped Watford to join Norwich in the Premier League next season after watching his Middlesbrough side claim a point in their lunchtime Championship clash at the Riverside Stadium.
The Hornets, who led courtesy of Ismaïla Sarr’s controversial 32nd-minute opener, remain second and 10 points clear of Brentford and Swansea, who conceded the only goal of the game in the 91st minute at home to Preston. Boro levelled with 12 minutes remaining when substitute Yannick Bolasie, on loan from Everton, nodded in his first goal in English football since October 2018.
Warnock, whose side have slipped out of the play-off picture of late, has celebrated promotion eight times during his career and feels Watford are well placed to finish off the job this season.
“I think these two will walk it,” he said. “Two of the best in the league. I don’t see many of the other teams winning five or six games, so everyone else is fighting for the play-offs really.”
Daryl Dike’s brace boosted fifth-placed Barnsley’s surprise play-off push as they won 2-1 against Luton at Kenilworth Road to move within a point of the Swans. United States forward Dike squandered the chance to claim a hat-trick after seeing a penalty saved by Hatters goalkeeper Simon Sluga before James Collins’s consolation set up a nervy finish.
“It was important to show a reaction after the loss against Sheffield [Wednesday] and the draw against Reading,” said Barnsley manager Valérien Ismaël. “We have 68 points which puts us in a great position, now six games left. Stay focused, recover and on to the next game.”
Steve Cooper was not ready to throw in the towel on automatic promotion despite Swansea falling to a fourth successive defeat. “We won’t give up, but the top two picking up a lot more points than us makes that difficult,” said the Swans manager. “We’ve just got to get back to winning games, and it’s hard. You’ve got to get through the rocky periods, and we are going through a difficult period – I’m not dressing that up.”
Reading remain sixth after beating Derby 3-1. Royals top scorer Lucas João came off the bench to secure victory with his 22nd goal of the season after Tom Lawrence’s stunning long-range finish reduced the Rams’ deficit following strikes from Michael Olise and George Puscas.
Bournemouth kept up the pressure on Barnsley and Reading with a 2-0 victory against Blackburn. In-form duo Philip Billing and Arnaut Danjuma were on target either side of half-time at Ewood Park to keep Jonathan Woodgate’s men a single point outside the top six, while Cherries goalkeeper Asmir Begovic saved a late spot-kick from Adam Armstrong.
Millwall enhanced their slim play-off hopes as goals from Murray Wallace and Mason Bennett, either side of Jacob Brown’s equaliser, secured a 2-1 victory at Stoke. Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest beat QPR 3-1 at the City Ground. Alex Mighten, Lewis Grabban and James Garner wrapped up the points for Chris Hughton’s hosts, prior to Lyndon Dykes’s stoppage-time consolation.
At the other end of the table, relegation-threatened Wycombe boosted their slender survival hopes by inflicting a damaging 3-0 defeat on fellow strugglers Rotherham. Goals from Admiral Muskwe, Jason McCarthy and David Wheeler earned the lowly Chairboys a second successive win but remain eight points from safety. The 22nd-placed Millers, who have games in hand on the teams around them, remain two points above Gareth Ainsworth’s visitors following an eighth loss from 10 games.
Coventry took a big step towards safety by beating Bristol City 3-1 to end their three-game winless run. Leo Østigård’s early strike and a second-half penalty from Matt Godden put the Sky Blues in control before Viktor Gyökeres ensured they would move seven points above the drop zone after Robins forward Nahki Wells pulled one back.
Sheffield Wednesday are fighting hard though after demolishing Cardiff 5-0 at Hillsborough with two goals from Adam Reach and one apiece for Julian Börner, Callum Paterson and Jordan Rhodes.