Seagulls soar to the top and leave Coppell in a quandary

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The Independent Football

Steve Coppell, the Brighton manager, is spending the weekend pondering whether to take over at Nationwide First Division Reading. Yesterday's results will not have made his decision any easier. The Royals, without a win since Alan Pardew left prior to taking over at West Ham, were held to a 2-2 home draw by Bradford City while Chris McPhee scored twice as Brighton beat Blackpool 3-0 to go top of the Second. So, the lure of Berkshire or unfinished business at the Withdean, as the Seagulls aim for a quick return to the First?

At the Madejski, Reading went ahead early on through Steve Sidwell, but Paul Evans equalised on the stroke of half-time and 10 minutes into the second Andy Gray put the Bantams ahead. Andy Hughes gave the Royals a deserved share of the spoils and Coppell something to think about.

In the match interesting Pardew, however, it was a tale of missing strikers at Pride Park where Derby County's Junior was injured and West Ham's Jermain Defoe suspended. Predictably, goals were scarce, but the Hammers' substitute, Don Hutchison, scored in the final minute to win the game. The East London side go third.

A third draw in three games saw early leaders Wigan slip to fifth. Andy Liddell gave them an early advantage over visitors Norwich City but the Canaries' acquisition of Darren Huckerby, on loan from Manchester City, had seen a marked improvement in form and he bedazzled four Latics players before squaring to Iwan Roberts who levelled.

"We should have gone in at half-time three up and the game would have been dead," Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager, said, "but the higher up you go the more you have to take your chances. We didn't."

Elsewhere, Delroy Facey, on loan from Bolton, scored a hat-trick at Turf Moor as Burnley, who only had enough players to feature three substitutes on the bench, beat Walsall 3-0 to go eighth. "Del deserved a goal for the work he puts in and it was great to see him get a hat-trick," Stan Ternent, the Clarets manager, said. "If we stay in the top eight it will be a miracle considering how stretched we are in terms of a squad."

Millwall, who beat Coventry City 2-1 at the New Den, are seventh while a clear-the-air meeting between the Crystal Palace players and their manager, Steve Kember, did the trick. They reversed a slump to beat Cardiff City 2-1 at Selhurst Park. The Bluebirds had Willie Boland and Andy Campbell sent off by referee Clive Penton to quash any recovery.

There were also red cards aplenty from Andy D'Urso at Portman Road as Ipswich Town beat Rotherham United 2-1. Pablo Counago scored the home side's goals, one from a penalty, but the Millers were reduced to nine men as first Mark McIntosh and then Julian Baudet were sent off. "The sending off of our two lads was right," Rotherham boss Ronnie Moore said, but he was "gutted" that his side had been denied a penalty for a foul on Darren Byfield.

Nottingham Forest had most of the early play at the Britannia Stadium, but headers by Wayne Thomas and Carl Asaba in the first 31 minutes, set up Stoke's 2-1 win and partly avenge last season's 6-0 defeat at the City Ground.

Watford survived the sending off of goalkeeper Alex Chamberlain, 19-year-old Len Pidgeley replaced him, to win 1-0 at Crewe, but Wimbledon were not so lucky. At Deepdale, Darren Holloway hauled back Ricardo Fuller, was sent off for a professional foul, and Preston's Fuller scored the game's only goal from the free kick. The Dons stay bottom.

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