Round-up: Brown puts Black Cats on pinnacle

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The Independent Online

In the three-club race for the two automatic promotion berths from the Coca-Cola Championship, Mick McCarthy's Sunderland team responded to his substitutions to beat visitors Coventry City 1-0 at the Stadium Of Light and send the Wearsiders two points clear at the top. The result was just as significant for the Sky Blues, dropping them into the relegation places.

In the three-club race for the two automatic promotion berths from the Coca-Cola Championship, Mick McCarthy's Sunderland team responded to his substitutions to beat visitors Coventry City 1-0 at the Stadium Of Light and send the Wearsiders two points clear at the top. The result was just as significant for the Sky Blues, dropping them into the relegation places.

Despite Coventry's greater first-half possession, the hosts had its best chance when Julio Arca swapped passes on the left with Steve Elliott but curled his shot just past the post. Arca had two further chances in the second half and was booked for diving before substitute Chris Brown, on for Liam Lawrence after 55 minutes, settled the issue with 14 minutes remaining.

He had already hit a post when he latched on to a flick and fired into the right-hand corner for his sixth goal of the season and secure Sunderland's sixth successive win

McCarthy paid tribute to Brown, and his two other substitutes, Sean Thornton and Andy Welsh, who turned the game the Black Cats' way.

"They're not there to sit on the bench, warming their bums and watching the game," he said. "I put them there with a view to coming on and changing the game. Sometimes they are more important than those who start."

Elsewhere, Sheffield United moved into the play-off places when they beat Burnley 2-1 at Bramall Lane. The Blades went ahead after 29 minutes, Alan Quinn on target, and a ball over the top of the Burnley back four set Andy Gray free to score the second, his 14th goal of the season. The Clarets' Ade Akinbiyi scored to set up a frantic finish but the Blades had earned a short break in the Cyprus sun. "I said to them before the game that they don't want to go away having thrown this wonderful opportunity away," their manager Neil Warnock, who will stay behind on transfer business, said. "Being in the play-off zone is a massive psychological boost."

Queen's Park Rangers also still harbour hopes of a late run into the top six thanks to a 1-0 win at Rotherham United, the Championship's bottom side. After a niggly and ill-tempered first half, Martin Rowlands scored the only goal of the game, seven minutes into the second half.

"With eight games to go we still have a chance of nicking into the play-offs," Ian Holloway, the Rangers manager, said. "That's almost like a second promotion for us." QPR are two points outside the top six. Rotherham are 17 points from safety.

The most predictable result in the division? Wolves drew. No matter that Stoke City led at Molineux through a Gifton Noel-Williams first-half strike going in to injury time, Carl Cort scored an equaliser and earn Wolves' 12th draw in their 17 matches so far under Glenn Hoddle. After the match, players on both sides claimed coins were thrown at them.

In the relegation battle at Ninian Park, David Vaughan's goal just before the hour gave Crewe a 1-1 fortunate draw with Cardiff City, who had been given a first-half lead by centre-half Danny Gabbidon's first goal of the season.

In League One, the leaders Luton Town drew 2-2 at Oldham. Second-placed Hull City won 4-0 at Bournemouth, to go within a point of the Hatters. Lawrie Sanchez, the Northern Ireland manager, watched the match at Dean Court ahead of next Saturday's World Cup qualifier against England. He will have been impressed by Stuart Elliott. The Tigers' striker scored twice - that's 27 goals this season - and could be facing John Terry next Saturday.

Elsewhere in League One the warm sunshine brought a rash of hat-tricks for Bristol City's Leroy Lita (they won 4-0 at Torquay), Swindon Town's Sam Parkin (4-2 winners over Wrexham) and Stockport County's Warren Feeney. Sadly, his bottom of the table side still lost, 5-3 at Huddersfield Town.

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