EFL: Billy Sharp's record among five things you may have missed

Nottingham Forest players Jack Colback and Joao Carvalho celebrate a goal against Leeds United
Nottingham Forest started 2019 in style, beating Championship leaders Leeds United 4-2 at the City Ground

Any fears that New Year celebrations might dampen the excitement of the first day of the English Football League in 2019 proved unfounded after another classic afternoon of drama and fireworks.

There was a second straight defeat for Championship leaders Leeds United, while bottom club Ipswich were left 10 points adrift of safety.

Elsewhere, record goalscorers, managers under pressure and mega away followings are some of the things you may have missed from the EFL's New Year's Day programme.

Sharp sets new goal record

A new year may have ticked around but, same as ever, Billy Sharp continues to score goals.

He was on target for the fifth time in four games to help Sheffield United to victory at Wigan, and in the process became the leading goalscorer in English league football this century.

The 32-year-old took his tally to 220 since making his debut in 2004, one goal more than former Southampton and England striker Rickie Lambert.

Billy Sharp celebrates Sheffield United's win at Wigan
Billy Sharp has scored 16 times in 24 outings for Sheffield United in the Championship this season

"It is a great personal achievement," Sharp told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Rickie was a great goalscorer so it was nice to finally catch him. Hopefully I can keep scoring so no-one can catch me.

"My dad is the one who tells me everything I need to know - he has a stat for every game. I knew what the next goal meant.

"Alan Shearer and Michael Owen were my two favourite players and I always try to get in the right areas. It has become a knack and I enjoy doing it."

Sharp is the joint-leading scorer in the Championship this season with 16 goals, helping the Blades to third in the table, and he has a few years ahead of him to extend his record.

While on the subject of longevity - a word for James Coppinger, who has netted for Doncaster Rovers in every calendar year from 2005 onwards. He scored in Tuesday's 5-0 win over Rochdale.

Forty-three reasons to love the Championship

We all love goals, right? Absolutely. The Championship was packed full of them on 1 January; 43 in total across the 12 matches, including six in two separate games.

Forest put four past league leaders Leeds, with two in reply. Swansea also struck four against Reading - who managed one.

Meanwhile, at the KCOM Stadium, Hull City smacked poor Bolton for six.

It was the Tigers' fifth win in a row, took their tally to 13 goals in five games and featured a first strike in 11 months for forward Chris Martin.

Hull City's Evandro scores their second goal against Bolton
Bolton keeper Ben Alnwick sees the ball go past him again

The Scotland international had been waiting since February 2018 to break an unwanted goal drought, and grabbed the fourth to ease his personal burden.

"It's relief," Martin told BBC Radio Humberside. "It's been a long time coming, not just at this club but at others.

"2018 was a tough one, I'm off the mark now in a better vein. I'm fairly confident in myself and you have to keep grinding.

"The staff here have been really good, and if you do the right things it eventually pays off."

New managers find life tough

It's never easy turning round a struggling side when you are appointed as manager mid-season, as new Reading boss Jose Gomes and Cambridge United counterpart Colin Calderwood are finding out.

The Royals were well beaten by Swansea in Gomes' first home game in charge, and he offered a stinging post-match analysis.

"The players didn't show any energy, strength or reaction," the Portuguese told BBC Radio Berkshire.

Reading boss Jose Gomes
Reading boss Jose Gomes has had stints at FC Porto and Spanish side Malaga as assistant manager

"We need to fight with the opponent in front of us. We can't run away, we must go face-to-face with them.

"I'm sure in the future, this sort of performance cannot and will not happen."

Meanwhile, Cambridge boss Calderwood suffered a third defeat in four games as his side lost 6-0 at MK Dons.

Cambridge are just two points above the League Two relegation zone, with Sol Campbell's Macclesfield, who are 23rd in the table, drawing at home to Tranmere to cut the gap.

And there was a fifth defeat in nine for Neal Ardley, who is aiming to coax Notts County off the foot of the EFL. At least the Magpies are only three points from safety.

When an away game is almost a home one...

When your away following is bigger than the entire attendance of five other League One matches, you know you've done a pretty good job in the marketing department.

Sunderland took an officially recorded 7,804 fans across the Pennines to the seaside town of Blackpool in a combined attendance of 10,994, swamping the home fans at Bloomfield Road, to see a 1-0 win.

Sunderland fans at Blackpool
Sunderland fans enjoyed their trip to the seaside

It came just a week after the Wearsiders recorded a season's-best EFL attendance of 46,039 for the home game against Bradford on Boxing Day.

The attendance is skewed by the fact Blackpool fans are engaged in a long-term boycott of the club, choosing to stand outside before games rather than fund the current regime - in their grievance against their owners, the Oyston family.

This season's average attendance for Tangerines games is 4,129, with 4,154 against Portsmouth the previous best of the season before Sunderland's visit.

Bosses in Potteries feel the heat

Two EFL managers based in Stoke-on-Trent have come under a fair amount of pressure from their clubs' supporters so far this season.

Stoke City were tipped by many to be automatic promotion contenders in the Championship, having spent heavily following their relegation from the Premier League, but things have not gone to plan for Gary Rowett.

A 2-0 home defeat by Bristol City left the Potters 14th in the table and some fans unfurled a "Rowett Out" banner during the game.

Results appeared to have turned for the better during November and December, but the past three games have yielded no goals scored and only one point.

Stoke fans display a 'Rowett Out' banner at their game against Bristol City
A section of Stoke fans called for Gary Rowett to get the sack

"When the crowd boo and join in with the songs that the opposition fans are singing, it's not the ideal way to spend a New Year's Day afternoon," Rowett told BBC Radio Stoke.

"The reality is I have to stand there and accept it. We're not winning enough games, we're not in the position we want to be in, it is what it is.

"I'll take it on the chin, and if the players go out there and don't perform, it's my fault. I'm pretty thick-skinned, and this is probably the first job I've had where things haven't gone as well as I'd have liked quickly enough."

Meanwhile, Port Vale are 19th in League Two but picked up a handy point at League Two leaders Lincoln on Tuesday.

However, manager Neil Aspin is considering his future at a club where he spent more than a decade at as a player.

"There are many supporters who don't want me at the club, but I think the players do want me," he told BBC Radio Stoke. "The players showed they knew it was a vital game for me and that's given me a lot of heart.

"If people don't want me here, then maybe it's time for me to go.

"I've had a chat with the chairman and I'll be seeing him again this week. If you're playing the team that's top of the league and you're getting booed by your own supporters when you're playing quite well, you're not going to do anything that's going to please them."

Top Stories