A stunning 42nd-minute drive by Liam Lawrence saw Stoke City beat Ipswich Town at the Britannia Stadium and open a one-point lead in this tightest of Championship title races, while Watford were held to a goalless draw by Preston North End and fell out of the automatic promotion places to be replaced by Bristol City, 2-1 winners at Colchester United.
The Potters broke the deadlock three minutes before the break when Lawrence cut in from the right and fired in a 25-yard shot. But manager Tony Pulis is not getting carried away. "I've been in the game for too long to get too excited yet. This is a tough league and there is still a quarter of the season to go. If we treat the last 12 games any differently than we have the first 34, we will end up with our pants pulled down and have our backsides slapped."
Setting aside that grim image we move to Vicarage Road where Hornets striker Darius Henderson rounded Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan but spurned the open goal, firing into the side-netting. It ended 0-0, Watford slipping to third and Preston dropping into the bottom three. Watford now go to a training camp in Dubai. "It will be intense because it is not a holiday camp," Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd explained, "but we may look back on this as the thing that made the difference."
Two goals in six minutes at Layer Road saw Bristol City go second with their win over careless Colchester United. The relegation strugglers led through Clive Platt's 50th-minute effort but two minutes later Dele Adebola levelled and Michael McIndoe made it 2-1 before the Robins' Bradley Orr was sent off.
West Bromwich Albion stay fourth but are six points off automatic promotion after they lost 2-1 at home to Hull City. Fraizer Campbell's ninth goal of the season gave the Tigers the lead just before the half-hour, but Roman Bednar's glancing header got Albion level. But with eight minutes left Caleb Folan thumped in Hull's winner.
Charlton Athletic's aspirations of reaching one of the automatic promotion places were left in tatters at Blackpool as Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored twice in the Seasiders' 5-3 win. "The back four just did not function today," Charlton manager Alan Pardew said. "Yes, this is a dent and a blow to our promotion hopes. It's going to be difficult for us."
Peter Halmosi also scored twice as Plymouth beat Burnley 3-1 at Home Park to move into the top six above Charlton.
Wolves rekindled their play-off dreams with a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, but for Barnsley, after winning at Anfield in the FA Cup last Saturday, it was back down to earth with a bump at Norwich City, where Jamie Cureton's goal earned the Canaries a 1-0 victory. Bottom side Scunthorpe United drew 1-1 with Southampton, but at Hillsborough an Enoch Showunmi knockdown saw Marcus Tudgay drive the ball in to earn Sheffield Wednesday a 1-0 win over Cardiff City and move out of the bottom three. Chris Morgan's goal earned Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Queen's Park Rangers, who led through Angelo Balanta's first-half goal.Reuse content