"The players may never have a better chance of getting into the Premier," Gary Johnson, manager of the Championship leaders Bristol City, had said of the importance of winning at Southampton. But his side were outplayed by the Saints, who won 2-0. Stern John scored the hosts' first and had a second effort ruled out for offside, but when Bradley Wright-Phillips' shot was blocked, Jason Euell knocked in the rebound.
"A poor game on our part and not what we planned," a chastened Johnson said. "That will keep our feet on the ground. There will be no talk of the next level at this club."
The win took the Saints out of the bottom three to be replaced by Barnsley, not the news the Tykes wanted before their FA Cup semi-final today.
The Robins' defeat enabled Watford, the only other side in the top six with a League match yesterday, to close the gap on the leaders to two points, with a game in hand, after a 2-1 win over struggling Coventry City. The Hornets manager, Adrian Boothroyd, characterised last week's defeat at Hull as "abysmal" and was not much more enthusiastic after an early goal by Nathan Ellington and Tommy Smith's late strike earned this win. "It was a terrific start but we gradually got worse," Boothroyd said. "We allowed them back in the game, then it was about grinding out a result." Watford are fourth.
Charlton Athletic's challenge had been wilting but a remarkable performance saw them win 2-1 at Plymouth Argyle. Their goalkeeper Nicky Weaver was sent off in the third minute for handling outside the penalty area and Robbie Elliot, their 21-year-old substitute keeper, went on. He was beaten on the hour by Jermaine Easter, but Leroy Lita struck twice to rekindle Charlton's play-off hopes. "Although we were a man short, we felt we controlled the proceedings," their manager, Alan Pardew, said. "We were slowing the game down but played some terrific stuff and we had a threat with Lita all day. He was excellent."
A 1-1 draw was probably not what either Scunthorpe United or Sheffield Wednesday wantedfrom their relegation battle, but the Iron look doomed. So too do Colchester United, who staved off relegation for another week when Scott Vernon scored twice to earn a 2-0 derby win over Ipswich Town. Leicester City are not out of trouble after James Beattie's hat-trick, scored in the space of seven first-half minutes, saw Sheffield United beat them 3-0 at Bramall Lane. But Norwich City eased their jitters by beating Burnley 2-0 to dent the Clarets' play-off aspirations, and in a mid-table clash Queens Park Rangers and Preston North End drew 2-2.
Goals in injury time by Joe Partington and Jo Kuffour saw League One leaders Swansea City slump to a shock 2-1 home defeat by Bournemouth, who are in financial peril after a consortium pulled out of takeover talks. They are one of three League One clubs in administration. Another, Leeds United, won 2-0 at Leyton Orient and go into the top six.Reuse content