by JAMES LING
Ayoze Perez scored twice and bagged himself an assist as Newcastle extended their lead at the top of the SkyBet Championship with a 3-0 win over Ipswich Town at St James’ Park.
Newcastle started quickly, with the Spaniard putting the home side ahead after just 60 seconds, firing a low volley past Bartosz Bialkowski.
Perez doubled Newcastle’s lead in the 73rd minute, converting from close range, before midfielder Matt Ritchie clinched the points five minutes later to give manager Rafa Benitez another win.
Ipswich drop down to 17th having won just once in their last eight games.
Norwich dropped out of the automatic promotion places following a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to in-form Preston.
Simon Grayson’s side have not lost in their last six league games after Alex Baptiste rose highest to get on the end of midfielder Daniel Johnson’ cross.
Preston now move to eighth and sit just three points outside the play-offs.
Brighton capitalised on Norwich’s defeat and moved up into second spot winning a tight clash against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Dale Stephens’ 68th minute goal was enough to give the seagulls the win, firing his shot into the top corner from 25 yards out.
Huddersfield got their promotion push back on track after two disappointing defeats. David Wagnar’ side claimed a 1-0 win at home to Derby County and inflict a first defeat for new boss Steve McClaren.
Derby looked to have earned a draw before Elias Kachunga stole the points for the home side in the 93rd minute heading home a Harry Bunn cross.
The result moved Huddersfield into third and level on points with Brighton while Derby are 21st.
Cardiff’s resurgence under Neil Warnock continued after a 2-1 win against 10-man Nottingham Forest moved the Bluebirds out the relegation zone.
The Bluebirds took the lead through an Aaron Gunnarsson header as he was left unmarked from a Peter Whittingham corner. Joe Ralls close range effort doubled the lead before half time.
Any chance of a comeback for the hosts looked bleak with defender Thomas Lam sent off for pulling back on Anthony Pilkington.
Forest set up a nervy finale when Henri Lansbury scored a penalty in stoppage time, but the away side would hang on to give Warnock his second win in three games.
Rotherham’s new era under new boss Kenny Jackett began with a loss following a 1-0 home defeat to Reading.
Jackett, who replaced Alan Stubbs, looked set to claim a point in his first game in charge of the Millers before Reading’s Paul McShane would poke home an 85th minute winner.
The defeat condemns Rotherham to their seventh straight league defeat and they remain bottom the league.
Aston Villa 1 – 0 Fulham
Bristol City 1- 0 Blackburn
Brentford 0 – 2 Barnsley
Sheff Wed 1 – 0 QPR
Wolves 0 -1 Leeds