Round-up: Roberts revives Wigan's hopes

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The Independent Football

Two home defeats had raised doubts about the ability of Wigan Athletic to win automatic promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship, but Paul Jewell's side headed south to Cardiff City and ground out a 2-0 win to go second again, on goal difference.

Two home defeats had raised doubts about the ability of Wigan Athletic to win automatic promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship, but Paul Jewell's side headed south to Cardiff City and ground out a 2-0 win to go second again, on goal difference.

"You're not going to get good games at this stage of the season." Jewell said. "We are fighting for our lives, Cardiff are fighting for their lives, and there is so much at stake that it's just not conducive to good football."

Indeed, the Welsh side had been the better team in the first half, but Jason Roberts broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half when he headed in Stephen McMillan's cross for his 20th goal of the season. Midfielder Alan Mahon added the second, four minutes from time. The defeat leaves Cardiff a point above the bottom three.

"It was a great result for us because the last two games have gone against us at home," Jewell added. "Ipswich have got to go to Wolves now and get a result [tomorrow night], so this is a big psychological and moral boost to us - the pressure is back on them."

Attempting to consolidate their play-offs places, both Preston North End and Derby County won. Fourth-placed Preston had the more straightforward task, at relegated Rotherham United, but the Millers were keen to impress their new manager, Mick Harford, and went ahead after 23 minutes when Will Hoskins' mis-hit cross flew in. But, in the second half, goals by Chris Sedgwick and Youl Mawene earned Preston a 2-1 win.

Derby, meanwhile, went fifth after overcoming Stoke City 3-1 at Pride Park. "The results today show just how tight the league is," the Rams manager, George Burley said. "We moved up one place even though all the teams around us won. I still think 75 points will get us in the play-offs."

Just outside the top six, Sheffield United hover in anticipation of slip-ups but were given a fright by Queen's Park Rangers at Bramall Lane. Danny Webber, on loan from Watford, scored twice to give the Blades the a 2-1 lead, but Kevin Gallen equalised for Rangers with the 100th goal of his career. A last-minute penalty, scored by Andy Gray, earned the Yorkshire side a 3-2 win. "It's not a defeat," Ian Holloway, the QPR manager, said, "we had it taken away from us. The referee [Lee Probert] got intimidated. I feel sick to the soles of my feet over what I've seen."

At the bottom, the struggle to avoid joining Rotherham in League One is looking increasingly desperate for Nottingham Forest who slumped to a 3-0 home defeat by Plymouth Argyle. "We want to give it everything we've got but as it stands at the moment, everything we've got is nowhere near good enough," Gary Megson, the Forest manager, reasoned. "We need a miracle."

Brighton, in the third relegation berth, gave themselves a chance of maintaining their status with a 1-1 draw with Leicester City, who led via a David Connolly penalty, then had Stephen Hughes sent off. The Brighton defender Paul Reid thumped in a rare goal 10 minutes from time to earn the point. Gillingham's recovery under Stan Ternent continued apace when they beat Burnley, the club that sacked him, 1-0 at the Priestfield Stadium, Darius Henderson scoring the goal.

There can be no room for complacency at Crewe either. Goals by Kenny Lunt, Steve Jones and Mick Varney saw them recover from a 3-0 deficit at Millwall, but Ben May's late penalty gave the Lions a 4-3 win.

"I don't know whether we can stay up or not," the dejected Crewe manager, Dario Gradi, said. "It's evens. We haven't won a game for God knows how long so I can't say we will win another two."

Barnet sealed the Nationwide Conference title when a 3-1 defeat of Halifax Town won promotion back into the league after four years out.

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