McCormack keeps Cardiff in the hunt

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City, four points adrift of the Championship leaders and just one clear of the chasing pack at the start of the day yesterday, were forced to endure a torrid afternoon at St Andrew's against Plymouth Argyle, as Cardiff did best of the pursuers.

The Blues' goalkeeper Maik Taylor was controversially dismissed after 23 minutes and Paul Gallagher converted the resulting penalty. Birmingham then lost Liam Ridgewell to injury but managed to battle back, substitute Franck Queudrue levelling with a header five minutes after the break.

Sheffield United missed the chance to take advantage, though, and stay a point behind the Blues in third after drawing 0-0 at home to relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest, who were reduced to 10 men after just 16 minutes when Kelvin Wilson was sent off for a head-butt. Forest drop into the bottom three on goal difference. Cardiff closed the gap on the Blades in fourth, Jay Bothroyd and a double from Ross McCormack sealing a 3-1 win over Burnley, who remain sixth.

Reading in fifth occupy the other play-off place but threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Blackpool and miss out on the chance to leapfrog Cardiff. The Royals went ahead in the 10th minute through Noel Hunt and doubled their lead when Jem Karacan scored his first for the club. But Keith Southern made it 2-1 on the half-hour and D J Campbell equalised for Blackpool midway through the second half.

Seventh-placed Swansea kept their play-off hopes alive with a 3-1 victory at Barnsley, Ashley Williams getting on the end of an early free-kick, Jordi Gomez doubling the lead before the break and top-scorer Jason Scotland capping the win in the second half. And Preston are also in the running for a top six finish after a 2-0 win at Doncaster, Chris Brown and Neil Mellor with a goal in each half.

At the bottom, Norwich moved out of the drop zone with a 2-0 win over Watford thanks to a spectacular own goal from Danny Rose, who curled the ball over his own keeper, and a late second from Gary Doherty. Southampton are still in the bottom three but also secured vital points, David McGoldrick giving them a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Charlton now need a miracle to prevent their relegation after a goalless draw at Coventry.

Ups and downs: Teams on the move

*League One Both Hereford and Cheltenham live to fight another day, while Leicester must wait another week before their promotion is assured despite a 1-0 win over Leeds.

*League One Luton Town were alone in suffering relegation yesterday, dropping out of the league – their home for the last 89 years – after drawing 0-0 with Chesterfield.

*Conference Leaders Burton Albion were forced to wait to claim a place in the league for the first time as they lost 2-1 at Kidderminster.

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