Sport Djamel Abdoun of Nottingham Forest, centre, takes on Paul Gallagher, left, and David Buchanan of Preston North End

Nottingham Forest may have swept aside Sam Allardyce’s beleaguered West Ham to claim a Premier League scalp in the third round but Preston of League One proved an altogether tougher nut to crack in last night’s FA Cup fourth-round tie her.

Phil Brown returns to management with Preston

Phil Brown today returned to management with Preston on an 18-month contract, as the npower Championship strugglers seek to avoid relegation.

Paul Newman: Burley sacking is anominous sign for managers' new year

The Football League Column: Palace tried to play more of a passing game under Burley, but the priority now will simply be survival

Sam Wallace: Ferguson Snr might have had his revenge but Darren deserves to be judged on his own record

Talking Football: The message to anyone who might consider employing Darren was... you'll get players on loan while my son is in a job but if you sack him – watch out

Outside the Box: New year, same old problems for Wolves, Wigan and Wham

It is rare for a final table to give such an accurate guide to performance the following season as was the case over the course of 2010. West Ham, Wigan and Wolves, the three clubs closest to relegation last May, have spent much of this season in the bottom three, while the same five teams who finished at the top have been there again. Our overall League table for 2010 therefore has a familiar look to it. Manchester United have 80 points, Chelsea 75, Arsenal and Manchester City 70 and Tottenham 66. West Ham's full haul from the 12 months was a mere seven wins and 34 points, behind Wigan, Wolves and the underachieving Birmingham, all on 37, then Fulham with 38. Clubs promoted from the Championship played three or four more games, which gave Newcastle 73 points at an average of 1.78 per game, fractionally less than Spurs. Unexpectedly, the biggest falling away compared to the second half of last season was Everton's, from 39 points with only two defeats between January and May, to 22 and only four wins this season. The relegated teams, Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth, have all sat around halfway in the Championship this season and are bunched together above the bottom five in our table.

League round-up: Burley sacked in Palace revolt after mauling by Lions

George Burley became the third Championship manager to be sacked in the Christmas and New Year period when Crystal Palace's 3-0 defeat in the south London derby at Millwall proved one reverse too many for the Selhurst Park board. Burley took over at Palace last June after the club was bought by the CPFC 2010 consortium. But the team languish a place off the bottom, and three points from safety, after Jason Puncheon's hat-trick had lifted Millwall to the play-off fringes.

James Lawton: We can be grateful England's hold on Ashes urn was firmer than Pietersen's grasp on reality

What can we say but shame on us all, except maybe for celebrity guru Piers Morgan, for whom a text from Kevin Pietersen has long been something to weigh in gold, not just for its shining wit and wry sophistication but the fact that it comes on the wings of Mercury from one of the great men of our times.

Preston fear the Ferguson effect as Stoke recall pair

Preston North End were hit by a second major blow in the wake of them sacking Sir Alex Ferguson's son Darren when the Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, recalled his club's players, Danny Pugh and Michael Tonge, from their loan spells at the bottom-placed Championship club.

Preston sack manager Darren Ferguson

Preston have terminated the contract of manager Darren Ferguson in a bid to retain their Championship status.

Paul Newman: Comebacks and surprises abound in the lower divisions

The Football League Column

Paul Newman: Time is running out for Keane to stop Ipswich's decline

The Football League Column: 'No players have to be sold. The owner takes a long-term view of such matters'

Round-Up: Howson caps stirring Leeds recovery

A stirring second-half recovery at Turf Moor saw Leeds United fight back from 2-0 down to beat Burnley 3-2 and move to fourth in the Championship, two points off an automatic promotion place.

Jones denies split in Cardiff's ranks

Dave Jones has seen his promotion-chasing Cardiff City side hit a slump in the Championship similar to that of Chelsea in the Premier League but the manager insists his club's problems can be solved by hard work.

Moyes urges Beckham 'to pick up phone and call me'

David Moyes has extended David Beckham the offer of playing for Everton to revive his chances of a return to the England fold, insisting that the 36-year-old need only "pick up the phone".

League round-up: Taarabt double puts Rangers back on top

Adel Taarabt scored with two typically powerful long-range shots as Queens Park Rangers stretched their unbeaten start to the season to 18 matches and returned to the top of the Championship with a comfortable 3-1 home win over bottom club Preston North End. After four minutes a cross from the right by Rangers full-back Kyle Walker was dropped by the Preston goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan, leaving Rob Hulse to tap in his first goal for the club. Taarabt's strikes put Rangers in charge before Matt Connolly chested the ball into his own net, but it was scant consolation for Preston.

Sam Wallace: Capello's choice of Bothroyd strips his view of English football down to bare bones

Talking Football: Without wishing to rain on Bothroyd's parade, this is more about what his call-up symbolises for Capello's team than what it means for Bothroyd personally
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?