Gianfranco Zola's Watford continue to impress, while managerless Preston win and Port Vale slip from the summit
• You always felt that West Ham had been hasty in sacking Gianfranco Zola (let alone replacing him with Avram Grant) which makes the rise-and-rise of Watford under the likeable Italian's stewardship an extra joy to behold. Two goals from Troy Deeney put The Hornets on the way to a 4-0 win at Lee Clark's terminally unimpressive Birmingham City. Also keeping pace with league leaders Cardiff City (2-1 winners in an early kick off against Bristol City) were Steve Bruce's Hull. Egyptian forward Mohamed Gedo securing a 1-0 win for the Tigers against a Charlton side currently filing performances in a draw marked 'Championship consolidation'.
• Wolves wish they could be so lucky. This week Dean Saunders took the Black Country strugglers to Derby County, the club where he made his name. Saunders credited legendary Rams' manager Arthur Cox with developing him into a top striker, and he still takes telephone tips from the Derby legend today.
"He said to me 'sign players who have done well for someone else because you can't change their character,'" explained Saunders not terribly clearly. "He said 'you can coach players and you understand football, so if they've done well for someone else, they will do well for you.'"
Wolves ground out a 0-0 draw but are still without a win since Saunders appointment and to follow the logic of Cox, the players who were relegated for Terry Connor last year look like they have another relegation in them.
• Although still very much in play-off contention, Middlesbrough are currently rock bottom of the Championship form table.
"I never ever stood here when we won five on the bounce in October and said how great we are," said an irritated Tony Mowbray this week. "We are going to lose some games between now and the end of the season."
Mowbray's Boro were as good as his word at Selhurst Park, as the prolific Glenn Murray helped Crystal Palace to a 4-1 win that extended their unbeaten home record to sixteen matches and put extra pep in the South London's side promotion hopes.
• Before the match against Bolton new/old Nottingham Forest boss Billy Davies strode onto the pitch and pounded his fist against his heart. Andy Reid looked to have put Forest on the way to a much-needed victory against ten-man Wanderers but Craig Davies equalised as the long-suffering City Ground crowd continue to suffer.
• League leaders Bournemouth suffered a surprise defeat against relegation-threatened Preston North End. Stuart Beavon and Bailey Wright scored the goals as PNE turned in an absolutely outstanding performance that screamed 'we-really-did-not-enjoy-playing-for-the-last-manager-at-all.' Or words to that effect.
• Resurgent Sheffield United took full advantage of a rare Cherries' stutter by notching up a routine victory over Colchester United. A penalty from Barry Robson and a Kevin McDonald strike moved the Blades up into the automatic promotion places and set up an enticing first-against-second fixture at Dean Court next week.
• A midweek draw against Hartlepool put an end to Portsmouth's nine-game losing streak, but not an equally unenviable run of twenty games without a victory. Carlisle went into an early second-half lead at Fratton Park thanks to a goal by Rory Loy, but a late Liam Walker penalty gave Pompey a rare sniff of victory. Guy Whittingham's men couldn't get over the line though, and the south coast's unfortunate record-breaking run continues.
• AFC Wimbledon notched result of the day at the bottom of League Two. The league's basement club snatched a frankly outrageous victory over Wembley-bound Bradford City. Veteran Gary Alexander scored the injury time winner which took the Dons to within a point of safety. The Dalai Lama will not be happy.
• The result of the day at the top of League Two was at Vale Park, where leaders Port Vale lost 1-0 against ten-man Morecombe. Lewis Alessandra scored the 63th minute winner. Gillingham took advantage of the Valiants blooper in Burslem by beating Dagenham & Redbridge 2-1. The Gills now have a two-point cushion at the top of the division.