League round-up: Dorrans is the difference as Albion enjoy home comfort

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The Independent Football

Two early goals set West Bromwich Albion on their way to a tense 3-2 win over Preston North End as Roberto di Matteo's side strengthened their grip on the Championship's second automatic promotion place.

Ben Watson's seventh minute opener and Chris Brunt's 12th goal of the season seemed to have put Albion in charge, but Sean St Ledger headed in a 15th-minute corner to give the visitors hope. Graham Dorrans curled a 30-yard free-kick into the top corner of Andy Lonergan's net after 33 minutes, his 16th goal of the season making it 3-1, and although Neil Mellor pulled another back for Preston before half-time, Albion held on after the break for a sixth consecutive home win.

"We are in a good position but you can lose it very quickly in football," Di Matteo said. "I am disappointed with the two goals we conceded, they are mistakes we shouldn't be making. Defensively we need to do better, there is no question about that."

Eight points behind Albion, third-placed Nottingham Forest's winning run at the City Ground has been even more impressive and now stands at 11 games after the unmarked Rob Earnshaw turned in his 13th goal of the season to account for bottom club Peterborough United, 1-0. Posh are 10 points from safety, but just above them Scunthorpe United came from behind to win the relegation six- pointer against Plymouth Argyle 2-1 and move out of the bottom three, Garry Thompson and Martyn Woolford the Iron heroes.

That result dropped Crystal Palace into the bottom three. The side P Diddy is said to be interested in buying raced into a 2-0 lead at Blackpool, Nick Carle and Darren Ambrose scoring, but a 20-yard Charlie Adam strike two minutes into the second half caught Palace on the hip hop, and with a minute left Ben Burgess levelled from six yards and it ended 2-2. "In the first half we were like the Dog and Duck," perplexed Pool manager Ian Holloway said, "in the second half we were like Real Madrid. We can't go on like that."

After five minutes at the Keepmoat James Hayter guided the ball in from six yards and that seemed to have earned Doncaster Rovers three points in their Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United. But two minutes from time James Harper earned the Blades a point with a right-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area. It stayed 1-1.

Middlesbrough's play-off ambitions received another setback when David Wheater's own goal gave Reading a 1-1 draw at the Riverside. Elsewhere, Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele's error presented Daryl Murphy with a goal as Ipswich won 1-0 at home, and Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County drew 0-0 at Hillsborough.

League One

Grant Holt's 28th goal of the season put leaders Norwich City ahead at Swindon Town, but Gordon Greer's 90th-minute equaliser saw the Robins earn a 1-1 draw and stay level on points with third-placed Charlton who drew 2-2 at home with Gillingham.

League Two

Gary Jones scored twice as leaders Rochdale came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Accrington Stanley in a match that saw both sides reduced to 10 men. They are 11 points ahead of Notts County, who won 1-0 at Crewe.

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