MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Promotion chasing Cardiff City needed an added time goal from Anthony Pilkington to earn a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United in the Championship on Monday and open up an eight point gap on third-placed Fulham.
Playoff hopefuls Derby County bounced back from their shock home defeat by Sunderland with a 1-0 win at Preston North End.
Sheffield United, who themselves are hoping to get into the playoff mix, started strongly and took the lead through striker Leon Clarke’s 28th minute shot which crept in the bottom corner.
But Cardiff fought hard after the break and finally broke through with Pilkington’s well-taken volley from inside the area.
The Welsh side have a strong grip on the second automatic promotion spot and will hope they can close the gap with leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers when the pair meet on Friday. Wolves lead by five points but face Hull City on Tuesday.
“We were a lot better in the second half. That’s what it’s all about, hanging in there,” said Cardiff manager Neil Warnock.
“When you equalise late on in a game like that, it’s a fantastic feeling. It sets us up great for the small matter of Wolves on Friday. We look forward to that.”.
Given Derby’s recent record of late season collapses, the 4-1 loss to lowly Sunderland on Friday could easily have shattered the confidence of Gary Rowett’s side but they responded strongly.
They were given a let-off, however, when Alan Browne missed a first-half penalty for 10th-placed Preston and went on to grab the win through Tom Lawrence’s 52nd minute free kick.
The victory ended an eight-match winless run for fifth-placed Derby.
“I’m pleased, it feels like relief. It didn’t matter how we won the game, we need to play better than that but, to be honest, I’m not bothered today,” Rowett said.
“I don’t think it was about the points today or where we are in the league, but more about the psychological angle because the longer the winless run went on, the more pressure there would be on the players.”
Sixth-placed Middlesbrough needed a last-minute header from Britt Assombalonga to take a point in a 1-1 draw from their trip to bottom club Burton Albion who took a sixth-minute lead through Marvin Sordell.
Bristol City, a point outside the playoff spots in seventh, failed to take advantage as they lost 1-0 at home to Brentford with Neal Maupay striking 10 minutes from time.
Millwall, who are level on points with City, drew 2-2 at Ipswich Town with George Saville getting their 60th-minute equaliser.
Neil Harris’s Millwall are now unbeaten in 14 league games.
Sunderland came back down to earth with a 3-1 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar