Forest axe Hart as relegation looms

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The Independent Football

Paul Hart, whose reputation as a manager has been on an almost continuous upswing, was sacked by Nottingham Forest yesterday in the wake of a 1-0 home defeat by Coventry City that left them stuck in the Nationwide First Division's relegation places, two points adrift of the pack.

After reaching the play-offs last season, where they lost narrowly to Sheffield United in extra time, Forest have gone 14 League matches without winning. Only Bradford City and Wimbledon are keeping them off the bottom.

Hart appeared resigned to his fate after what he described as "a disappointing result after a very poor performance". He said: "I suppose you could say I'm coming under pressure now. But I don't think about that; I let other people worry about those things.

"People have said I'm one-dimensional. But over the last few months I think I've tried every formation I know of - and if those critics had been watching us since October, they'd see the formations we've played have been many and varied."

At least he will be spared the task of searching for positives in the performance, after saying: "There are always good bits in a match, and I'm sure there were some positives in there somewhere. But I'll have to sit down and think hard to find them."

Patrick Suffo, recalled to the Coventry City line-up in the wake of Tuesday's 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat at Colchester United, scored the only goal after four minutes.

West Bromwich Albion's campaign for automatic promotion took a knock when they were beaten 3-0 by Preston North End, who revived their own hopes of a place in the play-offs at the end of the season with their first win in four home games.

Eddie Lewis cracked in a free-kick from just outside the penalty area after Andy Johnson had ouled Ricardo Fuller 12 minutes before half-time to put Preston ahead, and Craig Brown's side wrapped up the points in the last 15 minutes with goals from David Healy and Gary Alexander, from the penalty spot.

While the leaders, Norwich City strengthened their position with a 1-0 win at Wimbledon, third-placed Sheffield United could not take advantage of West Bromwich's slip. Andrew Johnson scored his 21st goal of the season to give Crystal Palace the lead at Bramall Lane, deflecting home a cross from Danny Granville from in the 43rd minute. Tony Popovic added a second 12 minutes after the interval and Neil Shipperley completed a 3-0 win for Palace with a late goal.

West Ham have faltered in their attempts to regain Premiership status with necessary player sales, but there was relief for their manager, Alan Pardew, yesterday as Bobby Zamora, who started on the bench after joining from Tottenham in exchange for Jermain Defoe, marked his debut by equalising Peter Atherton's first-half goal for Bradford City at Valley Parade. Marlon Harewood then supplied the winner with a low shot.

Pardew's old team, Reading, were shredded at Rotherham, where Michael Proctor scored twice on his debut to help United to a 5-1 victory, but in a battle of other sides with promotion ambitions Wigan Athletic beat Ipswich Town 3-1 down in Suffolk despite having Leighton Baines sent off.