Royle quite relaxed

JOE Royle was last night quite relaxed after seeing the Blues' lead at the top cut to three points and pointed out his side were still a long way clear of third place.

By Derek Davis

JOE Royle was last night quite relaxed after seeing the Blues' lead at the top cut to three points and pointed out his side were still a long way clear of third place.

While Paul Jewell warned Ipswich that his Wigan side are ready to pile on the pressure, after their 3-0 home win over Leeds United, Sunderland slipped up 2-1 at Brighton.

The Blues' boss spent Saturday watching Wigan beat Leeds and still sees the Latics as a major threat to Town's title aspirations.

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He said: “Leeds were poor and it could have been a lot worse. Wigan's two front men, Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts, were outstanding and overran Leeds.

“They looked really good but that doesn't surprise me. Wigan were my pre-season favourites to go up and they have proved me right so far.”

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Sunderland have also been putting pressure on the automatic promotion places but a tremendous point for Town at Preston, with the Blacks Cats slumping 2-1 at Brighton, sees the Blues six points ahead of third spot.

Royle said: “We also have a better goal difference, which is effectively worth a point, so we can say we are seven clear with both of them yet to play.”

Ellington, Roberts and Alan Mahon were all on target to dent the Yorkshire club's hopes of sneaking into the play-offs.

And Jewell said: “Hopefully, this will kick us on. With a quarter of the season remaining, this is where the hard work starts.

“I think that's probably our best performance of the season so far. We dominated the game from start to finish. We started well and got better. They couldn't deal with our front two, with the movement, the pace and the power.

“We got the ball down and created numerous chances. The only thing I thought at half-time was that we hadn't made the most of our opportunities. They came out in the second half and dominated the game.

“The last two home games have only produced a point for us so it was a bit of a pressure game for us today. “

Third-placed Sunderland lost at Brighton despite the home side having a man sent off. Richard Carpenter put the hosts ahead but then Adam Virgo was dismissed for a second caution on the half-hour. Mark McCammon, though, doubled the Seagulls' lead just before the break and, while Julio Arca pulled a goal back 10 minutes from time, it was not enough for the visitors.

Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy said: “I've got no qualms about the effort we showed - but now we've got to go out and show what we are made of.”

Although Preston remain the in-form side, after going 10 Championship games without defeat, they slipped a place following the draw. Derby climbed up to fourth after they beat basement-club Rotherham 3-1 at Millmoor.

Martin Butler's penalty put the home side ahead but the Rams levelled before half-time through Grzegorz Rasiak.

Marcus Tudgay and an Inigo Idiakez penalty sealed a sixth-consecutive away victory for George Burley's ever-improving side.

Burley admitted: “We have surprised a lot of people, including ourselves. There is a fantastic belief in the team and we are still improving.”

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