(Reuters) - Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce accused his players of letting themselves and the supporters down after a limp 3-1 defeat to Norwich City effectively ended their hopes of automatic promotion from the second-tier Championship.
Winger Josh Murphy’s curling 25-yard strike was the highlight for Norwich as fourth-placed Villa succumbed to their third defeat in five games to remain seven points behind second-placed Cardiff City, who have a game in hand.
“The players have let the supporters down - and they have also let themselves and the team down,” said Bruce.
Fulham look the only side who can catch Cardiff, whom they trail by two points having played a game more, after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s ninth goal in as many games earned the Londoners a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday.
Matej Vydra’s 20th goal of the season helped Derby County stay on course for a playoff spot with a 3-0 home win over Bolton. Sixth-placed Middlesbrough ensured an unhappy return for former manager Aitor Karanka to the Riverside by beating his new side Nottingham Forest 2-0.
Close behind, Millwall beat Bristol City 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 15 games.
At the other end, Sunderland look doomed in 23rd place after squandering the lead to draw 1-1 at Leeds United. Barnsley, however, could yet spring an escape after beating local rivals Sheffield United 3-2, a result that effectively ends the Blades’ playoff hopes.
Hull City definitely look safe after thumping Queens Park Rangers 4-0.
Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge