Round-up: Reading stand up for smaller clubs

Those who would prefer the Premiership to comprise an oligarchy of the most powerful, best supported clubs in the land will be viewing the race for promotion from the Championship with some alarm.

Those who would prefer the Premiership to comprise an oligarchy of the most powerful, best supported clubs in the land will be viewing the race for promotion from the Championship with some alarm. Reading, whose support base is not the biggest, moved three points clear in the second automatic promotion spot by dismantling Crewe Alexandra in a comprehensive 4-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.

Steve Sidwell's skidding shot (21 minutes) and a Dave Kitson strike (25) put them in charge, goals by Lloyd Owusu Ivar Ingimarsson completed the rout. Not that Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, is getting excited. "I am aware of the table, but I don't really look at it," he said. "We are only a third of the way through the season. It's a marathon and it is easy to go into freefall."

West Ham United's second home win of the week, 3-1 over Gillingham, took them up to fourth place. Even without the injured Teddy Sheringham the Hammers had too much craft for the Gills as Bobby Zamora finally found form, scoring once and setting up goals for Marlon Harewood and Hayden Mullins.

"The best player on the pitch today," the Hammers' manager, Alan Pardew, said of Zamora. "He showed he has the quality to play for this club. Bobby and Marlon Harewood were a real handful, we always thought they would be. They need to take it on from there."

After an uncertain start, Sheffield United have steadily climbed the table and yesterday beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 at Bramall Lane to move above the Devon side and into the play-off places. The deadlock was broken when a long throw from Jon Harley reached Leigh Bromby who headed in. Andy Gray added the Blades' second but a late David Friio goal gave home fans a nervous few minutes.

Millwall slipped up at home where they had to come back twice to claim a point from a 2-2 draw with relegation strugglers Cardiff City. The home side's second goal gave Neil Harris his 93rd goal for the Lions, equalling the aforesaid Sheringham's record.

Two of the relegated sides, Leeds United and Leicester City, are still struggling with their reduced stations in life. Leeds were architects of their own downfall in the 1-0 defeat at Brighton where Clark Carlisle scored an own goal and their defenders Matthew Kilgallon and Paul Butler were sent off late in the game. "One tries not to get involved with referees, the talk should be about Brighton winning the game," Leeds' manager Kevin Blackwell said. "Take nothing away from them - they chased us around the park. But some of the referee's decisions left everyone baffled."

Leicester, meanwhile, were the beneficiaries of an own goal, scored by Stoke City's John Halls, but Carl Asaba equalised for the Potters and it finished 1-1. Elsewhere, Preston North End beat Nottingham Forest 3-2 to go eighth. "I don't think we should bother looking at the tables at the moment," the Preston manager, Billy Davies, said, reading from the Steve Coppell handbook.

In League One, Luton Town's lead has been reduced from nine points to four in the space of eight days after they lost their third consecutive game, 3-0 at third-placed Hull City, and had Kevin Nicholls sent off.

League Two's best performance was Leyton Orient's at Lincoln City. They trailed three times but Lee Steele's hat-trick earned a 4-3 win, keeping them two points behind leaders Scunthorpe.

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