Newcastle eye Monday night gains

NEWCASTLE can return to the top of the Championship tonight if they maintain their happy habit of winning Monday matches.

The Magpies take on Preston at Deepdale knowing a third win on a Monday evening will return them to the summit at the expense of West Bromwich Albion.

Despite defeating Leicester and Sheffield United previously, however, manager Chris Hughton said: “It’s not ideal playing on a Monday and we would prefer to play at three o’clock on Saturday.

“But it’s the same for both teams and by the time kick-off comes around I’m sure we’ll both be raring to go.

“Our last Monday night game was at Sheffield United and that was an incredibly tough encounter and I expect this to be exactly the same.

“They’re a side which has done very well over the last few seasons and are hardened to this division.

“Alan Irvine has done a great job and he is someone I know very well and respect. They have both that physical threat and the ability to play football and, of course, they’re very good at home.”

Roberto Di Matteo’s West Brom took over the lead on Saturday with a thumping 4-1 win over Bristol City at the Hawthorns. “You cannot be higher than top of the table but we will not be getting complacent,” insisted Di Matteo.

Leicester climbed to third, with Andy King’s goal in the fourth minute of stoppage-time accounting for strugglers Plymouth.

Blackpool and QPR, two of the teams that started the weekend fixtures in the play-off spots, both lost to relegation-threatened teams – Reading and Doncaster respectively, the former sealing a first home league win in 10 months in the process.

Cardiff’s recent faltering form continued, meanwhile, as a last-gasp free-kick from on-loan Carl Dickinson claimed the points for Barnsley at Oakwell.

“It is disappointing to lose any game and to lose it with virtually the last kick of the game is hard to swallow,” admitted City manager Dave Jones.

“It is cruel but we have things to learn and we must learn them quick as we should have been satisfied to take a point.”

Another late intervention – this time a free-kick from Rob Earnshaw – cost Gordon Strachan a first win as Middlesbrough manager and extended Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten away run to nine matches this season.

Midfielder Darren Ambrose’s ninth Championship strike of the term put Crystal Palace in front against struggling Coventry at the Ricoh Arena only for Leon Best to head the hosts level.

Mark Cooper’s first game in charge of Peterborough ended in a 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United with George Boyd’s penalty miss proving costly thanks to Henri Camara’s goal for the Blades.

Ipswich drew their 10th match of the campaign after failing to beat Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Lee Grant at Portman Road, a result which leaves Roy Keane’s men four points shy of the safety zone in 23rd place.

Scunthorpe slipped to a place above the relegation spots with a 3-0 defeat at Watford.

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