Booed off at half-time after an inept and goalless first 45 minutes in their Yorkshire derby at home to Bradford City, Sheffield United came to life in the second period as two goals in as many minutes from Chris Morgan and Jack Lester set up a 2-0 defeat of Bradford City and lifted the Blades to third in the Nationwide First Division, eight points off the top.
"I think the top two are running the show," Neil Warnock, the Sheffield manager, said. "I would just like to put a few jitters up them because of the money they have spent on their teams. If you could just get within touching distance there will be a few nerves."
Jason Roberts, the Wigan Athletic striker, had been suspended for three matches and the promotion drive of Paul Jewell's side faltered. Restored to the Latics' side, he scored both goals in the 2-1 defeat of Coventry City at the JJB Stadium. The Sky Blues fell behind in the 16th minute when Roberts latched on to Jimmy Bullard's long pass and fired in. He steered in his second, six minutes later, from Andy Liddell's cross.
Paul Peschisolido scored twice and made another two goals as Derby County won the East Midlands relegation derby against Nottingham Forest at Pride Park 4-2. His first goal came courtesy of a plastic cup, which distracted Forest goalkeeper Barry Roche whose clearance fell to the former Blades striker.
"Peschisolido has been tremendous for us," George Burley, the Rams' manager, said. "Bringing him in has been a big bonus. You need a striker who is scoring on a regular basis. It's given us a realistic chance of staying in this division." The Rams stay in the bottom three but are within a win of Crewe, who are 15th, the highest-placed of seven sides now added to the relegation battle.
Dean Bowditch, Ipswich Town's 17-year-old striker, scored a hat-trick as the play-off hopefuls thrashed Watford 4-1 at Portman Road. "We have tried to shelter Dean but now the secret is out," Joe Royle, the Ipswich manager, said. "He has great natural talent, his eye for a pass is just as good as his eye for goal."
After their four-goal midweek mauling at Coventry, Preston North End were rocked by Walsall at Deepdale. Paul Merson, back from treatment for his addictions, set up both goals as the Saddlers won 2-1. "He has been on the edge of a desert for a month in almost isolation with one phone call a day," Merson's manager, Colin Lee, said, "He never did a lot of training. He played 90 minutes today - his third appearance within a week - and that takes some doing.
Elsewhere, Crewe lost 1-0 to Cardiff City and Gillingham beat Rotherham United 2-0, while high winds caused the postponement of second-placed West Bromwich Albion's match at Stoke City and Wimbledon's game at Burnley.
In the Second Division, Brentford's new manager, Martin Allen, started with a win when the Bees beat Rushden & Diamonds 3-2. Managerial upheaval in the Third Division too. Oxford United suspended manager Ian Atkins after it was revealed he had signed to become Bristol Rovers' manager next season. Swansea City and Cambridge United both parted company with managers last week, the Welsh side thrashed Scunthorpe United 4-2, but Cambridge lost 3-0 at Torquay.Reuse content