Aston Villa, Leicester, Swindon and Plymouth
Premier League ~ Villa stop slump at Swansea
Aston Villa started the new year with a glimmer of hope after a torrid Christmas period. Paul Lambert's team lost their final three matches of 2012, conceding 15 goals without scoring. They fielded their youngest-ever Premier League XI at Swansea and things didn't start well, as Wayne Routledge put them 1-0 down within ten minutes. However, Villa scored through Andreas Weimann just before half time then took the lead with six minutes left when Christian Benteke converted a penalty.
The visitors couldn't hold on and Danny Graham scored for Swansea in stoppage time, saving a game in which his side had 61 per cent possession and 23 shots on goal to Villa's eight.
Lambert said: "It's a huge point for the future of the football club. The young lads that are in it at the minute have been excellent. When you get beaten heavily, you learn a lot from people and the performance at Swansea showed me that mentally they're really strong. The lads have taken so much criticism in the last three weeks but today they deserve a lot of praise for what they've done. It always is a building block. This is a long-term thing. But the future of the football club will be really, really good.”
Championship ~ Leicester terrorise Terriers
Leicester City striker Chris Wood scored twice on his debut as his new team won 6-1 at home to Huddersfield Town. Wood, who was signed from West Brom after scoring 11 goals while on loan at Millwall, headed in after only six minutes and got his second on 24 minutes. From there Leicester raced away and were 5-0 up by the time Scott Arfield got a consolation for Huddersfield with half an hour remaining. Martyn Waghorn made it six for Leicester with 14 minutes left. The result keeps Leicester in fifth position, five points behind Hull in the automatic promotion places. For Huddersfield it is now ten games without a win, having collected just five points from the previous 30 available. In that time they have slipped from sixth in the table to 17th.
Wood, who cost the Foxes £2 million, said: "I think this was probably the best debut I've had. It's always nice to get on the scoresheet but, more importantly, we got the three points. I have come here to score goals and that's what I did today and, hopefully, I can carry on doing that. But as long as we get the three points, that is the major thing and we did that today."
League One ~ Swindon hit five again
Swindon Town won 5-0 at home for the second successive game, this time over Portsmouth. The Robins' last match was at the County Ground against league-leaders Tranmere Rovers on December 21 and was followed by two postponements at Leyton Orient and Colchester. All the goals on New Year's Day came after the hour mark and four from substitute James Collins, who scored a 12-minute hat-trick. They were the striker's first goals since November 17. The win was Swindon's third in a row and, due to Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United drawing 2-2, moves them within five points of automatic promotion with two games in hand.
Swindon manager Paolo di Canio urged his board to let him strengthen the squad in the transfer window to help gain promotion: "If I was [majority shareholder] Andrew Black and I was here today I would say, 'Paolo, here is the money, oh mamma mia'. But I am not Andrew Black and I cannot work double trouble four times or five times to take out something more. He already did a really good job, it is clear, but I would say, 'don't let me listen to voices around me'." He went on: "I would say 'shut your mouth, shut your mouth. Paolo, absolutely. This is for you, let me enjoy'. Then at the end if we don't go up he can kick my bottom. But in this moment I think about it and I hope but I don't count on help from the board and I do things my own way."
League Two ~ Argyle sack Fletcher
Plymouth Argyle have sacked manager Carl Fletcher after their 2-1 defeat to relegation-rivals Bristol Rovers on Tuesday. Fletcher had been in charge of the Pilgrims for 16 months but a run of one win in 13 games has seen the team fail to pull away from danger. According to the Plymouth Herald, the decision to sack Fletcher was made after their 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on December 29 but the board did not want to disrupt build-up to the important clash between the struggling Pilgrims and Pirates. Defeat for Plymouth means they are now only two points ahead of Rovers but have played two games more.
Reacting to his sacking after the match, Fletcher said: "I would like to say I look back on my time here with real happiness but it's far from it. We had a couple of relegations, all the administration stuff and fighting going out of the Football League. It has been a tough four years. It's obviously disappointing to end this way but that's life and that's football. It will be nice to spend some time with my family and get away from it all. It has been a real tough time, not just on the pitch but off it as well, because it affects your whole life. The way your life gets overtaken when you are a manager is very hard to deal with." Tom Hocking