EFL: Gordon Banks remembered, Portsmouth wilt and Kevin Ellison hits 40

By Rob StevensBBC Sport
Tributes to Gordon Banks adorn the former England goalkeeper's statue outside the Bet365 Stadium
Stoke City paid tribute to Gordon Banks, arguably their most famous former player, when they hosted Aston Villa

Championship trio Norwich City, Leeds United and Sheffield United all kept up their automatic promotion challenges with victories on Saturday.

Elsewhere, one striker's hot streak is keeping Birmingham City's play-off bid alive, but Portsmouth seem to be wilting in League One as spring approaches.

A celebration of Gordon Banks, a landmark birthday for one League Two player and differing fortunes for Oxford and Rotherham away from home are also things you may have missed in the English Football League.

Stoke's tribute to Gordon Banks

It was a poignant afternoon at Stoke City, where the Potters paid tribute to legendary ex-England goalkeeper Banks when they entertained Aston Villa.

The World Cup winner - arguably the club's most famous player - died this month at the age of 81, and current custodian Jack Butland wore a special plain green goalkeeping jersey as the club celebrated his life and career.

Stoke City fans pay their respects to Gordon Banks
A mosaic of a green goalkeeper's shirt was made by Stoke fans ahead of kick-off against Aston Villa

The shirt, which had no badge, sponsor or name, was a replica of the one Banks wore when Stoke beat Chelsea in the 1972 League Cup final - their only major trophy in the club's history.

Banks' statue outside the Bet365 was adorned with scarves and flowers, while Stoke supporters held up bits of card to create a mosaic which formed a giant number one ahead of kick-off.

Butland, himself an England international, made a couple of crucial saves to help the Potters to a 1-1 draw, although Nathan Jones' men are now six games without a win.

Pompey's promotion challenge wavering

When 2019 started, everything looked so rosy for Portsmouth.

They began the year with a home victory over AFC Wimbledon, sending them five points clear at the top of League One.

Since then, the turn of events have not gone in favour of Kenny Jackett's side.

A seven-match winless run had seen their automatic promotion challenge falter, but the visit of second-placed Barnsley to Fratton Park offered them the chance to breathe new life into their season.

Omar Bogle has his penalty saved by Barnsley keeper Adam Davies
Adam Davies was the hero for Barnsley, extending their unbeaten record after saving Omar Bogle's spot-kick

As it was, Pompey forward Omar Bogle had a second-half penalty saved by Tykes keeper Adam Davies as the two sides drew 0-0.

With Barnsley now 14 games unbeaten and a resurgent Sunderland 12 without defeat, Portsmouth find themselves fourth, five points off the top two.

The Hampshire side still have a 10-point buffer keeping them inside the play-off places, but Jackett is hoping for a revival in fortunes sooner rather than later.

"I felt we had the better passing game today, so performances are creeping up. With 12 games left we're all looking for that spring to finish the season strongly," he said.

Birthday disappointment for Ellison

Morecambe midfielder Kevin Ellison celebrated his 40th birthday on Saturday, and the Shrimps baked him a cake to mark the occasion.

The final product was something Mary Berry would have been proud of, featuring a mini Ellison - with a walking frame.

Ellison was also pictured with similar support in a moment of self-depreciation, but he didn't need it to take the field against League Two leaders Lincoln City.

Kevin Ellison's 40th birthday cake and the man himself
Kevin Ellison turns 40 - with Morecambe showing off their impressive cake on social media

However, he did not get the result that would have made the celebrations all the better as he was substituted late on when the Imps won 2-0 at the Globe Arena.

Despite his advancing years, Ellison is not even the oldest outfield player in the fourth tier this season.

Crawley Town veteran Dannie Bulman is a month older and played the full 90 minutes as the Reds drew 1-1 at home to struggling Macclesfield.

Gareth Barry celebrated his 38th birthday in the West Brom midfield as the Baggies lost 1-0 at home to Sheffield United, although Ellison and Bulman may consider the former England man a mere whippersnapper compared to them.

Adams finds scoring touch again to boost Blues

Birmingham City are making a late challenge for the Championship play-offs and Che Adams is the man who is making Blues fans dream of ending their eight-year exile from the top flight.

The 22-year-old striker struck twice to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Blackburn and take his personal tally to 21 league goals this season - 10 of them in his past eight league outings.

That kind of form has seen some City supporters dub the former Sheffield United youngster 'Chele' after Brazilian great Pele, and has put him in contention to win the Championship's golden boot.

Che Adams celebrates a goal for Birmingham City
Che Adams is responsible for over 70% of Birmingham's goals in their past eight league games

He is now just two strikes behind Norwich's Teemu Pukki, with Blades captain Billy Sharp one ahead.

Adams, meanwhile, has also become the first Blues player to pass the 20-goal mark in the top two divisions of the league since Trevor Francis scored 25 in 1977-78.

Former England international Francis was famously the first £1m-player, but Adams could be worth a few bob more should Birmingham consider selling him this summer.

Oxford end away hoodoo as Rotherham wait continues

This season has been a struggle for Oxford United, but their hopes of League One survival received a welcome boost when they recorded their first away win of the campaign.

The U's had gone 17 games without a league victory away from the Kassam Stadium this season before their trip to Blackpool.

But Jordan Graham's free-kick before half-time was enough to give Karl Robinson's side all three points and move them out of the bottom four.

Jordan Grahm on Twitter

That win means Rotherham United are the only side in the EFL still waiting for an away win this season.

The Millers did grab a point at Reading through Semi Ajayi's equaliser, but are now 17 away games without a win in the Championship - although they have drawn seven times on the road.

In fact, Rotherham are now 42 games without a win away from the AESSEAL New York Stadium in the second tier - a run stretching back to April 2016.

Only goal difference is keeping United in the relegation zone, but boss Paul Warne will no doubt want a victory away from home before the campaign is up.

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