Championship round-up: Harewood at the double as Magpies open up gap

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The Independent Online

Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion wasted little time in strengthening their grip on the Championship's automatic promotion places, the Magpies' Marlon Harewood and Albion's Simon Cox both scoring twice in the first half to set up comfortable wins yesterday.

Swansea City were expected to give the leaders a stern test at St James' Park but the contest was over by the half-hour mark after Harewood's two free headers either side of a Peter Lovenkrands goal put them 3-0 up. It stayed that way and they are eight points clear of third-placed Leicester. "It is the most important gap for anybody in the top two places," Chris Hughton, Newcastle manager, said. "All we can do is continue to do what we are doing and hope other results go for us."

Meanwhile, at Hillsborough, former Swindon striker Cox fired in twice from close range and Jerome Thomas added a third before the break against Sheffield Wednesday. Chris Brunt then scored against his former side as West Bromwich won 4-0.

Nottingham Forest jumped to fourth after beating Doncaster Rovers 4-1 at the City Ground but Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers both dropped points. City led early at Scunthorpe United but Martyn Woolford's goal earned the Iron a 1-1 draw, while Richard Wood's 81st-minute header saw Coventry draw 2-2 at QPR.

Neil Warnock celebrated his 100th match as Crystal Palace manager, watching his side beat Watford 3-0, Darren Ambrose scoring for the sixth consecutive match. But Middlesbrough still await a first win under Gordon Strachan after bottom club Peterborough United twice came from behind to draw 2-2.

Paul Sturrock's 250th match in charge of Plymouth Argyle had become a nightmare as Barnsley raced into a 4-1 lead at Home Park but torrential rain waterlogged the pitch and the match was abandoned before the hour. Derby County's Rob Hulse grabbed a late winner as they beat Reading 2-1, while Sheffield United's Darius Henderson completed his hat-trick in injury time to condemn Bristol City to a first home defeat.

FA Cup

In a Second Round bereft of real surprises, Staines Town of the Blue Square Conference South drew 1-1 with League One Millwall while Forest Green Rovers and York City of the Conference Premier reached the third-round draw, with its potential for ties at Old Trafford or the Emirates, by winning 2-1 away at fellow non-league sides Bath City and Cambridge United respectively. Oxford United and Barrow are also in the hat after their 1-1 draw, as are Luton Town, who drew 2-2 at Rotherham.

Chester City's Conference match against Eastbourne was abandoned after 75 minutes when fans protesting at the club's parlous financial state occupied the pitch.

Scotland

Celtic took over at the top of the SPL by beating St Mirren 3-1 at Celtic Park as Rangers lost 1-0 at Aberdeen, the Dons' win achieved despite the dismissal on the hour of Michael Kerr.

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