The Championship: Cardiff see grim future without Earnshaw

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The Independent Online

Cardiff City's 23-year-old Welsh international striker Robert Earnshaw is expected to join West Bromwich Albion in the Premiership after the Bluebirds accepted a bid for him yesterday, and they had some notice of how life will be without him when visitors Stoke City beat them 1-0 at Ninian Park.

Cardiff City's 23-year-old Welsh international striker Robert Earnshaw is expected to join West Bromwich Albion in the Premiership after the Bluebirds accepted a bid for him yesterday, and they had some notice of how life will be without him when visitors Stoke City beat them 1-0 at Ninian Park.

The Potters, improving on last season's mid-table form, won the match when Ade Akinbiyi, who had previously hit a post, set up Gifton Noel-Williams, who rifled in the game's only goal.

As for Earnshaw, "at this moment he has yet to sign for West Brom", the Cardiff manager, Lennie Lawrence, said, "but I would expect negotiations to be finalised on Tuesday. There is a possibility one or two West Brom players will be coming to Cardiff, but if they do it will not be a part of the Earnshaw deal."

The number of chances his side missed suggests the search for a replacement for a striker who has scored seven international goals while earning 12 Welsh caps is urgent.

Stoke, meanwhile, moved up to second place in the Coca-Cola Championship after the previous top two faltered. The leaders, Wigan Athletic, and Plymouth Argyle both dropped points away from home for the first time this season. Argyle went ahead at Watford, but Danny Webber scored twice for the Hornets as they won 3-1.

Wigan also went ahead, at Sunderland, when Jason Roberts side-footed in his third goal of the season after 18 minutes. The Wearsiders improved after the break and Steve Elliott, a second-half substitute, equalised with eight minutes left.

Hungarian spies from Ferencvaros will have been impressed by the obduracy of Millwall, their Uefa Cup opponents next month, who defended resolutely against Reading and won the match 11 minutes from time when Danny Dichio headed in David Livermore's cross.

"We now need to put the cup draw firmly to the very back of our minds and concentrate solely on the league," assistant manager Ray Wilkins said. "The FA Cup killed us last year and we can't let European football do the same to us this season."

Shefki Kuqi scored both goals as Ipswich Town moved up to third place thanks to a 2-0 win at Rotherham United. The Millers slip to bottom.

After four draws Nottingham Forest at last got a decisive result: they lost. Coventry City gorged themselves at the City Ground, winning the Midlands derby 4-1, Andy Morrell scoring twice. Forest had Gareth Taylor sent off.

Brighton moved off the bottom when Preston's Marlon Broomes lashed the ball into his own net from a corner for the only goal of the game at Withdean Stadium. At Pride Park, Derby County were stunned by visitors Crewe Alexandra who won 4-2, Steve Jones scoring twice.

Luton Town kept intact the League's only 100 per cent record when they came back from a goal down to beat Blackpool, bottom of League One, 3-1 at Bloomfield Road and stay three points clear at the top. The Hatters' first goal was scored by Steve Howard, setting a club record of scoring in nine consecutive matches. Ahmet Brkovic scored Luton's other goals. Chester City were the first club Ian Rush played for and yesterday they became his first managerial seat when he was given the task of succeeding Mark Wright, his former Liverpool team-mate who took Chester back into the League last season. A 3-0 home defeat to Darlington gave Rush fair warning of the challenge, with the Blues rooted to the foot of the table.

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