On a day when the drenching, blustery weather claimed 11 Nationwide League games, two goals by Geoff Horsfield blew West Bromwich Albion, second in the First Division, five points clear of the pursuing pack after a 3-1 win over Watford at The Hawthorns.
The Hornets held out until four minutes before half-time when Horsfield grabbed his first goal, accepting Andy Johnson's through ball, rounding goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley and scoring from an angle. Lee Hughes made in 2-0, Horsfield struck again but Scott Fitzgerald scored to give the Hornets some consolation until they had Heidar Helguson sent off late on.
"We put a solid team out and I knew what I was going to get in terms of work-rate and organisation," Gary Megson, the Albion manager, admitted. "Although there were very few real chances, it was us who created most of them."
In the play-off places, Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic lost ground when they were held to draws by Coventry City, at Highfield Road and Burnley, respectively. Ipswich fell behind on the stroke of half-time, Stephen Warnock thumping in a loose ball to give the Sky Blues the lead. Ian Westlake's strike made it 1-1 to earn Ipswich a point. At Wigan, Burnley's defence held firm in a goalless draw.
In the relegation battle, struggling Derby County went down 3-1 to Reading at the Madejski Stadium, Shaun Goater scoring twice to take his career tally past the 200 mark. But the desperate form of Nottingham Forest, who slipped into the bottom three in midweek, was halted by a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City. Bradford City, one off the bottom, lost 1-0 at Gillingham, Patrick Agyemang scoring on his home debut for the Gills.
The side in the deepest trouble, and Agyemang's former club, Wimbledon, kicked off 45 minutes late on their first return to Selhurst Park since moving home to Milton Keynes, because the gales had made two of the stands unsafe. Much good the delay did the Dons. Andy Johnson scored twice as they lost 3-1 to Iain Dowie's resurgent Crystal Palace to remain 12 points from safety.
"Sometimes I feel like the rug is being pulled from under my feet," Stuart Murdoch, the Dons' frustrated manager, said. "I'm being told every month that we will be out of administration but I've got to the stage where I don't believe what anybody tells me. You get cynical.
"We lost four players at the start of the season and four more over the last four weeks. We should have got more money for all of them. We must have good players because people keep taking them off us." Indeed, defender Mikele Leigertwood is due to be sold to Palace this week.
Danny Dichio scored twice for Millwall at Crewe to give the Lions their first-ever win at Gresty Road, 2-1, and Carl Asaba also grabbed two as Stoke City ran out 3-2 winners in a pulsating Midlands derby with Walsall at the Britannia Stadium.
In the Second Division, the top two lost. Leaders Plymouth went down 2-1 at Brighton, Trevor Benjamin and Leon Knight on target, and Queen's Park Rangers' stutter continued as they were thumped 4-2 at lowly Chesterfield. In the Third, Oxford United beat Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 to go back into the automatic promotion places.Reuse content