Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp struggled to make an impact at Bramall Lane last season after moving from Scunthorpe United, but his hat-trick in the 3-0 defeat of Queens Park Rangers will have silenced the doubters. His goals came from a close-range header (three minutes), a perceptive pass from Gary Speed and pacy break (10), and a scrambled prod (51).
"If he keeps scoring like that I would have paid £10million for him," Blades manager Kevin Blackwell enthused.
Three sides have six points after two matches – Coventry City, Preston North End and Birmingham City. The Sky Blues' new striker Freddie Eastwood gave them an early lead against Barnsley at Oakwell but the Tykes equalised on the stroke of half-time through Brian Howard's volley. Coventry weathered the storm, Eastwood set up Julian Gray's winner and Barnsley's Iain Hume was sent off. It ended 2-1. Eastwood can "create a goal from nothing," Chris Coleman, his admiring manager, said. "If you've got that you've always got the edge."
Last Saturday substitute Kevin Phillips' injury-time goal gave Birmingham victory, and yester-day he had been on the pitch barely a minute when he poached the winner again as the Midlanders beat Southampton 2-1. "A fabulous striker," Blues manager Alex McLeish said. "You know if he gets just one chance then he will bury it."
Preston's second win, 2-0 over Crystal Palace, came via second-half goals by Barry Nicholson and Richard Chaplow. But Palace felt aggrieved to be denied "a definite penalty", the Preston manager, Alan Irvine, admitted.
An interesting season seems in prospect for Sheffield Wednesday. On the first Saturday they won 4-1, yesterday they lost 4-1, at Wolves, where Chris Iwelumo scored twice.
Charlton Athletic and Watford, both relegated in 2007, are expected to make a stronger push for a place back in the Premier League. At Vicarage Road, the Hornets looked the better prepared, Tommy Smith scoring just before the half-hour. Kelly Youga was sent off before the break to reduce Charlton's hopes of recovery. It stayed 1-0.
Promoted via the play-offs, Doncaster Rovers looked on course for a second 1-0 win until the ball hit the referee and fell to Cardiff City. They broke away and Ross McCormack equalised Lewis Guy's opening goal after a mix-up in Rovers' defence.
The kick-off at Burnley was delayed for half an hour when one of the parachutists hired to celebrate the start of the Turf Moor season missed the pitch and floated on to the roof of the stand. The fire brigade was called to get him down. When the match started, visitors Ipswich Town kept their feet on the ground and won 3-0.
Norwich City drew 1-1 at home to Blackpool, Swansea City had much the better of their match against another promoted side, Nottingham Forest, winning 3-1, and Ibrahima Sonko's two headers saw Reading defeat Plymouth Argyle 2-0.