Hammers level at top of table

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WEST Ham - FA Cup opponents for Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday - moved level with Southampton at the top of the Championship with a 1-0 win over Coventry.

Although they were not at their best, the Hammers got the breakthrough in the 66th minute when Kevin Nolan took advantage of some poor defending to finish from close range. And that was enough for West Ham to join the Saints on 47 points as seconds after Nolan’s goal, Jake Forster-Caskey pounced on an error from Kelvin Davies to put Brighton 1-0 up against Southampton en route to a 3-0 win.

Matthew Sparrow doubled the lead in the 76th minute and then scored again four minutes from time to sink Southampton, who suffered a second straight defeat, having had Rickie Lambert sent off for the first time in his career following a clash with Adam El-Abd early in the second half.

Brighton also finished with 10 men following the late dismissal of Gordon Greer, but it did nothing to affect the final outcome.

Middlesbrough could have gone top with a victory at Blackpool, but instead suffered a 3-0 reverse as Lomano LuaLua and Matt Phillips ran riot.

LuaLua set up Phillips for the first in the 50th minute, then turned in the second following a fine run from Ludovic Sylvestre.

Phillips was at the heart of the third, with his low ball turned into his own net by Seb Hines.

Cardiff joined Middlesbrough on 45 points with a 3-1 victory over Reading. Joe Mason got the first in the 13th minute and it was 2-0 when Aron Gunnarsson headed in Peter Whittingham’s corner six minutes later. Whittingham was the provider again for the third, with a pass setting up Kenny Miller. Reading gave themselves hope with a Jobi McAnuff goal on the stroke of half-time, but could not find a way back.

Having gone seven games without a goal, third-from-bottom Nottingham Forest needed only five minutes to find the net at Portman Road, where they beat Ipswich 3-1. Andy Reid teed up Marcus Tudgay to grab the first, and it was 2-0 when Garath McCleary netted. Grant Leadbitter got one back, but Tudgay made sure for Forest moments later with his second. Leeds scored twice in the dying stages to snatch a 2-1 win over Burnley.

Burnley were down to 10 in the 29th minute after Kieran Trippier picked up two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes, but led through Charlie Austin’s 69th-minute goal. But Brian Easton put through his own net in the 88th minute and Ross McCormack stole the points deep into added time.