LONDON (Reuters) - Middlesbrough’s on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford netted his 15th league goal of the season to help the second-tier promotion chasers top the Championship table with a 1-0 home win over Wigan Athletic on Friday.
Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough have 75 points, one ahead of Bournemouth who drew 1-1 at Ipswich Town, and two in front of third-placed Norwich City after the Canaries won 1-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion thanks to Bradley Johnson’s second-half goal.
Watford are fourth, on the same tally of 73 points as Norwich but with an inferior goal difference, after drawing 2-2 in a topsy-turvy encounter at sixth-placed Derby County.
Brentford are fifth on 69 points after romping to a 4-1 victory at London neighbours Fulham. Ipswich and Wolverhampton Wanderers are a further point back in seventh and eighth respectively, on the same points as Derby.
There are six games left in the season. The top two go up to the Premier League and the next four teams battle it out in the playoffs for one remaining promotion slot.
Middlesbrough striker Bamford will hope to have caught Jose Mourinho’s eye at his more illustrious parent club Chelsea after scoring his fifth goal in their last six league games to take his season’s tally to 17 in all competitions.
The England under-21 striker found the bottom corner with an effort from outside the penalty area in the 20th minute after being teed up by Jelle Vossen.
Bournemouth, who were top of the table at the start of the day, went behind at Ipswich following a sixth-minute goal by Freddie Sears but substitute Kenwyne Jones scored on his debut to level with eight minutes to go.
Norwich, relegated from the Premier League last season, helped their chances of an immediate return with Johnson scoring his 11th goal of the season at Brighton just past the hour mark.
Matej Vydra put Watford 1-0 up at Derby but the hosts hit back through Darren Bent, with a penalty, and Tom Ince.
The visitors had defender Marco Motta sent off in the 47th minute for tripping Johnny Russell in the box and giving away the spot kick before Odion Ighalo earned them a share of the spoils with an equaliser 15 minutes from time.
Two goals from Stuart Dallas and late efforts from Alan Judge and Jota helped Brentford to a thumping win over Fulham.
Benik Afobe and Bakary Sako (penalty) grabbed second-half goals for Wolves who held off a late Forest rally to win 2-1 at the City Ground.
Additional reporting by Tony Jimenez; Editing by Ken Ferris