Fuller topples Albion as Watford find sting

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The Independent Football

After just one week at the summit, West Bromwich Albion were deposed as Championship leaders by a Ricardo Fuller hat-trick for Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, confirming that no side looks good enough to run away with the division this season.

The Potters, fourth but now only a point behind Albion, led from the fifth minute when Mamady Sidibe's pass set up Fuller's first. Just before half-time Liam Lawrence's cross found the striker unmarked at the far post to volley in. He sidefooted in his 10th goal of the season and third of the day in the 66th minute. Roman Bednar pulled a goal back, but Stoke won 3-1.

Faltering form of one win in seven games had seen Watford relinquish top spot but they regained it when Jobi McAnuff, set free by Nathan Ellington's pass, earned a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday.

Elsewhere a spate of sendings off put several managers in tetchy, unfestive moods. At third-placed Bristol City, Enoch Showunmi scored two in a 3-2 win over Barnsley, who led twice but had Jamal Campbell-Ryce sent off. "We stood firm against 12 men," the angry Tykes manager Simon Davey said, "because the referee was certainly on their side."

Charlton Athletic were outplayed by Hull City for much of the match at The Valley but a Madjid Bougherra goal earned them a point from 1-1 draw. "The simulation that happened in the first half a suggested elbowing incident was a bit naughty of the player, who was trying to get one of our players booked or sent off," Hull's manager Phil Brown said. "Consequently, he got his comeuppance in the second half." Could he mean Danny Mills, sent off for foul and abusive language?

Blackpool celebrated a 4-0 thrashing of Coventry City, who were down to 10 men when Kevin Kyle was sent off for elbowing Shaun Barker at 1-0. "We haven't seen massive amounts of marks on Barker's face," the Sky Blues manager, Iain Dowie, suggested. "It's disappointing to see professionals act like that."

Oddly, Jim Magilton, Ipswich Town's manager, blamed the dismissal of Burnley's John Spicer for the 0-0 home draw. "Had it stayed 11 against 11 I could only see us winning," Magilton said.

In the relegation struggle, wins for Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers lifted them out of the bottom three. The arrival of the Lakshmi Mittal billions at QPR, joining relative paupers of the motor racing world Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, was celebrated by two goals from Akos Buzsaky in a 2-1 defeat of Colchester United, who are now rock bottom. Leicester City earned a point from a 1-1 draw at Wolves but still slipped into the bottom three as did Scunthorpe United, beaten 1-0 at home by Norwich City, Jamie Cureton on target.

Cardiff City beat Sheffield United 1-0 at Ninian Park, while Crystal Palace's improvement under Neil Warnock continued, Clint Hill and James Scowcroft scoring in the 2-1 defeat of Plymouth Argyle. Palace are 10th.