Championship Round Up: Jerome lifts Blues but Royals falter

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City tightened their grip on the Championship's second automatic promotion place with a gritty 2-0 win at Doncaster Rovers. Cameron Jerome, jostling with two Rovers defenders as a high cross dropped to them, looped in a 19th-minute header for the Blues first goal, and three minutes before the interval Hameur Bouazza pounced on a poor back pass to steer in the second and open up a seven-point gap on third-placed Reading, who lost 1-0 at home to Ipswich Town.

The return of prodigal striker Dave Kitson, back on loan in with the Royals after his failure to make an impact at Stoke City, could do nothing to cure their lack of goals. Ipswich profited from Reading's nerves when Jon Stead's spectacular overhead kick two minutes into the second half secured all three points.

It was Steve Coppell's 999th game as a manager. "I suppose I must have done something right but whatever I was doing right I'm not doing at the moment. A manager's longevity depends on results so if I don't liven up I'm fully aware of the consequences," he admitted. "It's painful. I feel for the fans and for the players because they are trying."

Darius Henderson scored twice as Sheffield United beat Derby County 4-2 at Bramall Lane to move to within a point of Reading. Blades manager Kevin Blackwell praised the ex-Watford striker's performance "It was always going to be a very difficult job to fill [James] Beattie's boots. He looked a real threat today."

At Turf Moor, Burnley showed no signs of fatigue in their 50th match of the season by humbling Nottingham Forest 5-0, the goals spread throughout the team after Robbie Blake's 19th-minute opener. "We showed a lack of desire and commitment," furious Forest manager Billy Davies said, "We have players who lack a will to win."

Preston North End could also have an extended season after a 2-1 win over Coventry City took them into the top six. The Sky Blues led but Ben Turner headed into his own net and Jon Parkin scored the 72nd-minute winner. Swansea City's challenge faltered after a tired-looking performance saw them beaten 3-1 at home by Crystal Palace, Victor Moses, Jose Fonte and Shefki Kuqi scoring for the visitors.

At the bottom, Norwich City scrambled out of the relegation places when David Mooney, on loan from Reading, scored his second goal in two games as the Canaries beat Plymouth Argyle 1-0, despite later having Darel Russell sent off. A goalless draw with Queens Park Rangers left Southampton mired in the bottom three, where they are joined by Barnsley, who lost 1-0 at home to Blackpool. Watford and Sheffield Wednesday drew 2-2.

In League One, Steve Howard scored as leaders Leicester City won 1-0 at Millwall, while second-placed Peterborough United also won 1-0, against Northampton Town, despite having Gabriel Zakuani sent off in the seventh minute. The top two in League Two met at Griffin Park, leaders Brentford drawing 3-3 with Wycombe.

Keith Alexander, the Macclesfield manager, was taken for a precautionary brain scan before the 2-0 home defeat by Bournemouth. The 50-year-old former Lincoln and Peterborough manager suffered a brain aneurysm in 2003. He was taken to hospital an hour before kick-off after feeling unwell.

In Scotland, Steven Fletcher's 14th-minute header saw Hibs beat Hearts 1-0 in the Edinburgh derby. Both sides had a man sent off in first-half injury time, Hearts goalkeeper Janos Balogh and Hibs defender Sol Bamba.