Championship round-up: Top Gera steers Albion safely to their destination

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The Independent Football

Zoltan Gera headed two far-post goals as free-scoring West Bromwich Albion enhanced their reputation as the side to watch in this season's Championship with a classy 4-2 win over fellow promotion chasers Charlton Athletic at the Hawthorns which took them to the top of the table.

But Albion had to come from behind after Chris Iwelumo, hobbling after twisting an ankle, spun to nod in Jerome Thomas's 37th-minute cross. Six minutes later Gera's pass picked out Roman Bednar, who coolly equalised, and five minutes into the second half Chris Brunt's cross from the left found Gera and the Hungarian headed in.

The visitors got back into it when a Luke Varney cut-back saw Izale McLeod score his first Charlton goal, but in the 80th minute another Brunt cross to the far post was again met by a Gera header. Four minutes later Kevin Phillips, back after injury, hooked in Albion's fourth.

Worryingly for Albion, Gera is out of contract after this season. "He is appreciated by the players, the management and the supporters and I hope he would see his future at our club," Albion's manager, Tony Mowbray, said. "Let's wait and see. Zoltan has shown by his performance against Charlton that it is not playing too heavily on his mind." Talks continue.

The former leaders Watford were poor in losing 1-0 at home to Plymouth Argyle, David Norris scoring. The Hornets were possibly distracted by Al Bangura's appeal against a failed asylum application. Not so, the manager,Adrian Boothroyd said. "We had chances and didn't take them, they gave us warnings and we didn't heed them."

Bristol City went third when Marvin Elliott's goal earned a 1-0 win over Cardiff City, who were reduced to 10 men after 15 minutes when Steve Thompson was sent off. Ricardo Fuller scored twice as Stoke City recovered from the early setback of Michael Flynn's goal for Blackpool to win 3-2 at Bloomfield Road. The Potters are fourth.

Ipswich Town have yet to win away, but a 10th home win in 11 starts, 3-2 over Scunthorpe, shows why they are sixth, replacing Wolves, who were held 0-0 at Queens Park Rangers, who in turn replaced Preston North End at the bottom. Preston won a testy local derby 3-2 at Burnley,who had Chris McCann and Joey Gudjonsson sent off. It was Preston's first away win of the season. A last-minute Danny Granville own goal handed Norwich City a point from a 1-1 draw at Colchester United.

Matt Kilgallon's goal saw Sheffield United win the Yorkshire derby with Barnsley 1-0, while Crystal Palace beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 and Hull beat Leicester City 2-0.

Joy and relief at the Ricoh Arena as 19,143 Coventry City fans celebrated the club's 11th-hour escape from the threat of administration with a point in a 1-1 draw against visitors Southampton.

"The new chairman [Ray Ranson] wants to sit down with me next week and has said he wants to invest from the academy upwards and strengthen the first team," said the manager, Iain Dowie, who has "a shopping list".

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