In a stringent test of their Championship promotion credentials, Reading passed with honours by taking three points home from Bramall Lane after a 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United. Hitherto, away form had not been the Royals' strong suit but they looked solid from the fifth minute when Kevin Doyle crossed for Kalifa Cisse to fire into the roof of the net. A minute before the break, Stephen Hunt's cross to the near post was headed in by Doyle, his 14th goal this season.
"There was a real determination in the dressing room at half-time to protect what we had," Reading manager Steve Coppell said, "and I thought we did a decent job of doing that. It was a good all-round performance."
Also lurking with intent just outside the top two, Burnley, boosted by their Carling Cup win over Chelsea on Wednesday, returned to west London and beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1. QPR led through Dexter Blackstock but superb shots by Robbie Blake and Alan Mahon saw the Clarets go fourth.
"It was a big ask to come here after the exertions of the midweek game but the spirit and the desire of the players was evident again," the Burnley manager, Owen Coyle, said. "I took more pleasure and enjoyment out of winning today's game."
Meanwhile, leaders Wolves and second-placed Birmingham City both struggled to win matches they might have expected to stroll through. At Southampton, goals by Chris Iwelumo and David Jones saw Wolves lead, but Saints pulled a goal back through Alex Pearce's header. The hosts had Jason Euell sent off, one of 24 red cards yesterday, and it ended 2-1.
Birmingham were less than convincing in their 3-2 home win over Charlton Athletic. James McFadden (pictured) gave Brum the lead but goals by Hameur Bouazza and Andy Gray saw Charlton ahead at half-time. Two mistakes by Charlton goalkeeper Nicky Weaver let Brum back in as first he dropped the ball at Kevin Phillips's feet, then Frank Queudrue took the second gift.
"That's the greatness of Kevin," his manager Alex McLeish said. "A lot of forwards wouldn't have followed it in because it looked like a dolly of a catch but that is his instinct." Brum played with 10 men for over half-an-hour after Nigel Quashie was sent off.
Cardiff City stayed in the top six as a Michael Chopra penalty, back at Ninian Park on loan from Sunderland, and Joe Ledley's shot set up a 2-1 defeat of Crystal Palace, who had Matt Lawrence sent off. A point behind, Swansea City scored two in as many minutes in their 3-2 win at Norwich City, Darren Pratley and Ferrie Bodde the marksmen after Jason Scotland had drawn the Swans level at 1-1.
At the bottom, Doncaster Rovers won for only the third time this season as Shelton Martis's header beat Ipswich Town 1-0.
A place above them, Nottingham Forest held on to a 2-2 draw at Bristol City when Michael McIndoe missed the Robins' injury-time penalty. At Barnsley goals by Peruvian Miguel Mostto and Stephen Foster saw Watford lose 2-1.
Elsewhere, Craig Noone's goal three minutes from time saw Plymouth Argyle win 1-0 at Coventry City and Derby County comfortably beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0.
Having sacked manager Maurice Malpas on Friday, League One Swindon Town drew 2-2 with a Leicester City side who needed all the three points to go back to the top. And in League Two, Grimsby Town, under (relatively) new manager Mike Newell, at last won, after 23 arid matches, when Liam Potter and Nathan Jarman struck in the 2-0 win at Bury.Reuse content