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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Hammers on the move as rivals slip up

West Ham beat Coventry 1-0 at Upton Park to move level at the top of the table, after leaders Southampton and Middlesbrough were thumped away to Brighton and Blackpool respectively.

West Ham peppered the visiting goal in the first half without reward, as Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy kept out each of the nine shots he was forced to deal with, but Kevin Nolan finally got the hosts on the scoresheet just after the hour - and that was enough for victory.

A first red card of Southampton striker Rickie Lambert's career, handed out for violent conduct, proved the turning point in the match; Brighton grabbed the lead through Jake Forster-Caskey in the 66th minute, then two strikes from Matt Sparrow put the seal on the victory.

Blackpool had the better of the opening period against Middlesbrough yet failed to find the target - but they did nudge ahead five minutes into the second period through Matt Phillips, who curled into the corner from the edge of the area. Lomana Lua-Lua doubled the advantage soon after, converting after a fine run from Ludovic Sylvestre, and Boro's misery was completed when Seb Hines shipped an own goal.

Cardiff climbed above Boro and into third by cruising to a 3-1 home win over Reading. A terrific strike from Cardiff's Joe Mason broke the deadlock on 13 minutes: the striker embarked on a raid down the right flank, lost the ball just outside the area only to then recover it, before drilling into the corner of the net. Seven minutes later it was two, as Aron Gunnarsson converted Peter Whittingham's cross, and Kenny Miller's goal after 36 minutes effectively killed off the game - although there was a consolation from Jobi McAnuff.

Nottingham Forest endured a miserable finish to 2011 but began the new year by ending a 10-hour goal drought to beat Ipswich at Portman Road. Forest arrived in Suffolk having failed to score in the seven npower Championship games since Marcus Tudgay's injury-time strike in a 3-2 victory for Forest in the reverse fixture at the City Ground on November 19.

It was Tudgay who broke the duck after five minutes before Garath McCleary extended the lead before the half-hour mark. Ipswich pulled a goal back from the penalty spot midway through the second half through Grant Leadbitter but Tudgay sealed the win with his sixth goal of the season 12 minutes from time.

Ross McCormack struck what could prove to be one of the most vital goals of Simon Grayson's time in charge of Leeds five minutes into injury time, as United overturned a one-goal deficit to come from behind and beat 10-man Burnley.

Theo Robinson struck the decisive goal just 32 seconds into the second half as Derby's play-off challenge gathered momentum with a third successive win over the Christmas period, 1-0 at Hull.

Marlon King's 93rd-minute penalty salvaged a deserved draw for Birmingham in an absorbing encounter with Peterborough at London Road. Emile Sinclair's goal after just 29 seconds handed Peterborough a dream start to 2012, with the former Macclesfield forward making no mistake from 12 yards to register his seventh of the season as City's rearguard appealed for offside.

Doncaster moved off the bottom of the table after goals from James Hayter and Kyle Bennett gave them a 2-0 win over Barnsley at the Keepmoat Stadium, while Second-half goals from Marko Futacs and Hayden Mullins helped Portsmouth hand 10-man Watford their first defeat in nine matches.

Leicester finally got back to winning ways as Neil Danns returned to haunt his former club Crystal Palace in a 2-1 win. Danns, who left Selhurst Park on a free transfer in the summer, was recalled to the starting line-up with the Foxes without a victory in their last five outings.

And the midfielder opened the scoring with his third goal of the season before setting up Sol Bamba for the second. Palace pulled one back through Jonathan Parr but could not find an equaliser as Leicester held on, despite a late red card for Steve Howard, to register only their third away win of the season and inflict Palace's second home defeat.

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