Last season, Bristol City were the surprise package in the Championship play-off places; this campaign, Owen Coyle's Carling Cup semi-finalists Burnley are the team creating a stir and illustrated their durability when they conceded a penalty to the Robins early in the second half at Ashton Gate but recovered to win 2-1. In the 57th minute, five minutes after they had fallen behind, Clarets striker Martin Paterson equalised and 20 minutes later he crossed for Steve Thompson to score, setting up a fifth win in six games.
"We are on a good run still, but the Championship is such a tight league that if we switch off for a moment we will be punished," Coyle said. "But my players don't know when they are beaten. They are all desperate to do well for the club and it showed again."
A Christmas roast came early for fifth-placed Cardiff City, manager Dave Jones administering one at half-time in the match against Sheffield Wednesday. "We were sloppy and never dictated the game," he said. But Roger Johnson's deflected shot and a Michael Chopra penalty still eased them to a 2-0 win.
Preston North End slipped out of the top six when they lost 3-2 at Queens Park Rangers. Heidar Helguson twice put Rangers ahead, twice Preston responded. But when Martin Rowlands' 86th-minute free-kick was headed in by substitute Dexter Blackstock, there was no third way back for North End.
Preston were replaced in the play-off places by Sheffield United after a 2-2 draw with former manager Neil Warnock's Crystal Palace. The Blades went ahead when a poor back header by Palace defender Jose Fonte set Nathan Dyer free on goal four minutes before half-time. Two minutes after it Pat McCarthy levelled, James Beattie scored a penalty but Palace came back through Nick Carle's 94th-minute goal.
Four of the bottom five met yesterday with an early Christmas bonus for Nottingham Forest, a Wes Morgan header and Joe Garner's 30-yard chip over Kelvin Davis earning a 2-0 win at Southampton, who are now a point above the relegation zone. "A sublime bit of vision," Forest manager Colin Calderwood said of Garner's strike. "Their goalkeeper had come off his line a few times to act as a sweeper, and Joe cottoned on to that. It was a really crucial result, the psychology of it gives the whole club a lift." But there was no respite for the confidence-free zone that is Charlton Athletic. They battled well at Norwich City until Leroy Lita's goal on the hour saw the Canaries lead and Charlton lose 1-0.
Among the mid-table sides hoping to break into the top six, Swansea City were held to yet another draw, 1-1 at Blackpool. "My glass is definitely half full," Swans manager Roberto Martinez said. "At the halfway stage of the season I am happy with our progress."
Ipswich Town, despite conceding a goal after 37 seconds to Coventry City's Clinton Morrison, twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at the Ricoh.
Plymouth Argyle manager Paul Sturrock thought his side "weren't given the opportunity" to display their goods against Barnsley "because of someone's stupidity". Step forward Simon Walton, sent off after 28 minutes. Argyle lost 2-0 as the Tykes won for the first time in five matches. Rob Hulse scored the goal as Derby County beat Watford 1-0, their first win in seven.Reuse content