Even without their captain, Paul Merson, Portsmouth, the Nationwide First Division leaders, look unstoppable. Leading 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday through Svetoslav Todorov's strike, Pompey lost Merson to an ankle injury after 24 minutes, Gary O'Neil replaced him and three minutes later the Owls were level, Leon Knight on target. But Harry Redknapp's side regrouped, Todorov's 10th goal of the season made it 2-1 and O'Neil wrapped up a 3-1 win.
In second place, Leicester City opened up a five-point gap between themselves and the play-off places when they beat visitors Rotherham United 2-1 while third-placed Norwich City were losing 2-0 to Burnley at Turf Moor.
After an even first period, Mickey Adams, the Leicester manager, told his players to "get the ball to Paul Dickov's feet and get him turned and running", as "we were just too one-dimensional". They were ahead five minutes into the second half through Dickov. Jordan Stewart made it 2-0 but Rotherham pulled a goal back to make it a fretful finish.
The Canaries, meanwhile, were succumbing to Burnley, who won without playing well. "[Goalkeeper] Marlon Beresford was the only reason behind the success," the Clarets' manager, Stan Ternent, admitted after goals by Mark McGregor and Glen Little had set up the win.
Sheffield United moved up two places into the play-off zone when they thrashed Bradford City 5-0 at Valley Parade. Steve Kabba, a £250,000 buy from Crystal Palace, touched in a cross by Dean Windass, a Bradford striker when they were promoted to the Premiership but now on loan from Middlesbrough. Windass scored the second and it got worse for Bradford in the second half. Gus Uhlenbeek was sent off before Shaun Murphy, Michael Brown and Carl Asaba goals completed the humiliation.
Brighton's revival looked like coming to an abrupt halt at Preston, where they trailed 2-0 at half-time. Manager Steve Coppell "gave us a bit of a rollocking", Steve Sidwell, the Brighton striker, said, and it did the trick when Simon Rodger and Sidwell scored to make it eight points from four games. What's more, the teams just above them lost.
Grimsby Town went down 2-0 at Crystal Palace when Shaun Derry's 39th-minute shot took a huge deflection off Jason Gavin and Dele Adebola added a second. Stoke City lost their eight consecutive League match when they were caught cold by visitors Millwall, Steven Reid heading in in the second minute.
Ipswich Town's gradual rehabilitation under Joe Royle continued with a fortuitous 2-1 home win over Coventry City. A Darren Bent header put Town ahead after 10 minutes but an error by Chris Makin presented John Eustace with an equaliser. Royle sent on former Celta Vigo striker Pablo Counago. "I'd told him it's a totally different game to Spain, where a low tempo speeds up around the box. In England, it accelerates when the first whistle blows and doesn't stop until the final whistle." Counago reacted first to a loose ball to score the winner.
The Brazilian Junior's seventh-minute goal gave Walsall a 1-0 win over Gillingham
The Second Division leaders, Wigan, won 1-0 at Brentford to open up a three-point lead over Oldham, who drew 0-0 at home with Cheltenham. It was business as usual for the Third Division leaders, Hartlepool, as new manager Mike Newell saw two goals by Eifion Williams earn a 2-1 win at Leyton Orient.
Comebacks of the day: Macclesfield trailed Torquay 3-0 at home after 10 minutes but drew 3-3; Bristol City were 4-2 down at Mansfield with 14 minutes left but won 5-4. Finally, roll of dishonour: three Exeter players and two from visitors Cambridge were sent off after a mass brawl at the end of the latter's 2-1 win, equalling the League record for red cards in a game.
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