League round-up: Carroll keeps Magpies perched at top

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The Independent Football

Headers by Fabricio Coloccini and Andy Carroll sealed a 2-1 win for the Championship leaders Newcastle United at Watford that gave them a six-point gap on second-placed West Bromwich Albion. The Magpies took the lead in the fourth minute, Carroll heading a free-kick back across the goal for Coloccini to nod in. Five minutes into the second half, Carroll headed in his 11th goal of the season at the near post from a Danny Guthrie corner. Will Hoskins pulled back a late goal, but Newcastle held firm.

"The only disappointing note of the afternoon was conceding the goal when we did," Chris Hughton, their satisfied manager, said.

Chris Brunt scored twice as Albion came from behind to reclaim second place with a 3-1 home win over Derby County. The Rams led early in the second-half through Chris Porter, but Brunt's left-footed strike and a close-range finish after a corner inspired Albion's recovery, completed by Simon Cox's shot from 18 yards. "It will be a hard slog, everyone is fighting for something so there are no easy games left," Albion's coach Eddie Newton said. "We need to try and get away from Forest and keep putting Newcastle under pressure."

After 19 minutes at the Liberty Stadium Swansea City midfielder David Cotterill was felled in the 18-yard box and got up to tuck away the penalty as Paulo Sousa' fourth-placed side kept pace with a 1-0 home win over bottom club Peterborough United. But sixth-placed neighbours Cardiff City lost 3-0 at Preston North End despite the hosts being reduced to 10 men when they were leading 1-0. Jon Parkin had scored that goal and added a second after Paul Coutts' red card. Chris Brown made it 3-0.

Sheffield United are a point behind Cardiff after a nervy 4-3 home defeat of Plymouth Argyle, Jamie Ward scoring twice. Also in Yorkshire, Barnsley dented Blackpool's hopes, substitute Iain Hume scoring in the 75th minute as the Tykes won 1-0.

Crystal Palace, after their FA Cup replay defeat at Aston Villa, returned to toil against relegation and earned a gutsy 1-1 draw at Doncaster Rovers. James Coppinger gave Rovers the lead; Kieran Djilali levelled, to earn what might be their last point under manager Neil Warnock. "Nothing has changed," Warnock said. "Until I am told any differently I have a job to do and it is a difficult job." He is, of course, tipped to become the fourth Queens Park Rangers manager of the season. Yesterday, QPR lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough, Barry Robson scoring both goals from first-half penalties.

Jon Stead and Sammy Clingan scored as Coventry City beat Scunthorpe United 2-1 to sit three points off sixth place. Chris Coleman's side had Leon Barnett sent off at 1-0 but Kieran Westwood saved Gary Hooper's ensuing penalty. Reading, who booked an FA Cup quarter-final place in midweek, celebrated with a 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday, Grzegorz Rasiak and Jimmy Kebe both scoring twice against the side they beat 6-0 last season. Bristol City's goalkeeper Dean Gerken was man of the match in Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw, their 10th in 16 games at Portman Road.

Leagues One & Two

Grant Holt's 25th goal of the season saw League One leaders Norwich City win 1-0 at Oldham Athletic to take a five-point lead, and Craig Westcarr scored a hat-trick as Steve Cotterill's first match in charge of League Two Notts County saw Hereford United crushed 5-0 at Meadow Lane.