Five talking points from the EFL weekend - are Huddersfield Town play-off challengers?

What are the five things we learnt from the weekend’s EFL action? Gabriel Sutton talks us through it.

The quarterly evidence is that Fulham and Bournemouth are the two stand-out sides in the Championship.

West Brom have given themselves a chance of capitalising on any slip-ups from those two sides, while it would not be a huge surprise to see Sheffield United enter the equation by putting together a run of wins.

There will, though, be at least two play-off spaces up for grabs to teams that, having been unfancied in pre-season, have defied their doubters with a positive start: one of them is Huddersfield Town.

The Terriers entered the top six with a 2-0 victory over Hull, a fifth clean sheet of the campaign, which highlights the influence of their defensive core of shot-stopper Lee Nicholls, aggressive Matty Pearson, organiser Tom Lees and ball-player Levi Colwill.

There were concerns about how those players aside from Colwill would fit into Carlos Corberan's possession-based style, but they have adjusted very nicely.

McCarthy under pressure at Cardiff

Mick McCarthy Cardiff City manager Oct21

Cardiff boss Mick McCarthy hoped an encouraging performance against Reading, in which his side had 27 shots but lost 1-0 to a team that mustered only two, could be built on after the international break.

Instead, things got worse.

The Bluebirds fell to a 3-0 defeat to rivals Swansea on Sunday and were, despite McCarthy's claims that his side started well and how the game could have been different, thoroughly outplayed.

The Barnsley-born boss played five centre-backs which, he hoped, would have the effect of stunting their opponents in the final third, but instead it invited pressure: in all senses of the word.

It meant defenders like Sean Morrison were forced to push out, leaving them in situations they were not used to or comfortable with and their opponents found ways of playing around them.

Cardiff have always been at their best when intimidating the opposition and their more successful sides in recent years have been experienced, battle-hardened and direct: there is nothing wrong with that.

There is a line, though, between being direct and being defensive: McCarthy has crossed that line significantly.

Rotherham look contenders in League One

Rotherham have had results this season, like the 2-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday and the 1-1 draw at Lincoln, in which they were very unlucky.

With an Expected Goals Ratio (xGR) of 71.10% - by far the best in League One - it seems reasonable to give the Millers some leeway for the fact that their 4-1 victory over Portsmouth did not wholly reflect the balance of play.

Pompey were very much in the game up until the early stages of the second half, when Paul Warne brought on Chiedozie Ogbene for Michael Ihiekwe.

Ogbene's quick, driving runs down the left catalysed a seven-minute treble salvo in which the Millers turned the game on it's head.

Selfless target-man Michael Smith, ball-carrier Ben Wiles and energetic presser Ollie Rathbone get all the plaudits for the form that has Rotherham now just three points off the summit, but the evergreen Richard Wood remains a vital influence in the centre of the three-man defence.

Grayson resurgence at Trawlermen

Ged Garner Fleetwood Jul21

Simon Grayson has a reputation for setting his side up with 10 men behind the ball and not much attacking endeavour, or willingness to keep possession and build an attack.

The Yorkshireman's methods proved effective at Preston North End, but after tough stints at Sunderland, Bradford and Blackpool, Grayson has had his work cut out at Fleetwood, who have had to make cutbacks this summer.

With a defensive manager and reduced forward quality, one could have been forgiven for expecting Fleetwood to be one of the lowest-scoring sides in the division: but in fact, the opposite has been true.

The Trawlermen have scored 20 goals in 11 league games, the same number as Wycombe, who currently sit second in the table.

Will Ged Garner, having been on loan in the National League North with Gateshead just 12 months ago, keep up his current form and score 20 goals? Will Danny Andrew blast in from range once every three games? Will Fleetwood continue to outperform their Expected Goals For (xGF) return by 78%?

The answer to all those questions is it's unlikely, and the Fylde coast club must solidify if they are to continue to climb the table.

After a 3-0 win over Crewe, though, allowing their opponents just one shot on target, perhaps Grayson's troops are beginning to find a formula to haul themselves further away from danger.

Another win to nil for solid Tranmere

Micky Mellon Tranmere Oct21

After a 1-0 victory at Carlisle last time out, Tranmere Rovers have conceded just four goals in 12 league games.

Micky Mellon's side could finish the season having shipped goals at a rate that doubles their current return and still have the strongest fourth-tier rearguard since Shrewsbury Town - also managed by Mellon - won promotion by letting in only 31 in 2014/15.

The Scot certainly knows how to drill a team into shape, with veteran Peter Clarke still doing the business at both ends at 39 and Jay Spearing bringing relentless tenacity in midfield.

Although Rovers have suffered an injury crisis in goal, with Scott Davies and Joe Murphy both sidelined, young Ross Doohan has not put a foot wrong since coming into the side, following his loan move from Celtic.

Elliott Nevitt is in some ways part of this excellent defensive unit as well, despite being a striker, because his work rate is impeccable: having played ninth-tier soccer with Warrington Rylands 1906 FC last season, the young frontman is desperate to prove himself at this level and it shows in the committed nature of his performances.

With Sunderland loanee Josh Hawkes starting to offer enough on the left to take attention off the obvious right-sided combination play between Josh Cogley and Callum McManaman, Tranmere are building on strong foundations too and could be in the automatic promotion shake-up.

READ MORE: Liverpool underline title credentials against Watford - and even the bookies are coming around

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