With the Premier League taking a short break untilNew Year's Day, it was the turn of the pressure cooker that is the Championshipto take centre stage last night in the hectic holiday season fixtures. Thepromotion chasing sides with their eyes on the glittering rewards in thePremier League were represented by Ipswich Town and Derby County; Leeds Unitedand Wigan Athletic were in dire need of points down at the bottom;  and mid -table Charlton Athletic and SheffieldWednesday would prefer to head towards the play-offs, but could equally getdragged down into a relegation dogfight later in the season.

Derby County 2 Leeds United 0

Leedshad Billy Sharp and Brazilian Adryan on the substitutes’ bench at the start ofthe match and encountered an assured display by Derby as they cruised tovictory.

WithLiverpool loanee Jordan Ibe lively down the left for Derby and causing aconstant threat with his pace, it was slightly surprising that it took untilthe 41st minute before the home side took the lead. Derby had gotround the back of United’s defence on several occasions during the first-halfand did so again as Will Hughes’ broke clear down the left, his dangerouscut-back being turned into his own net by midfielder Alex Mowatt, as he belatedlytracked back.

With both sideslooking to play the ball on the floor when they could, the match was a decentshowcase for the Championship but ex- England boss Steve McClaren’s men alwaysseemed to have the extra class on the night.

They doubled their lead just afterthe break, when Jake Buxton got his head on a free-kick from Jeff Hendrick.

Fromthereon Derby were in cruise control and seemed content with their night’swork, although Ibe tried his luck with along range effort towards the end which was almost spilled by the Leeds'keeper.

Derby climbedabove Middlebrough into third place in the league as a result of the win, butare still two points shy of the automatic promotion places after Ipswich’svictory.

Leeds remain just above the relegation zone and will need to pick uppoints soon to avoid a stressful New Year, but will have to manage with theplayers they already have on their books, due to a transfer embargo. Due totheir failure to meet Financial Fair Play guidelines, they will not be able tosign any players for the rest of this season.

Ipswich Town 3 Charlton Athletic 0

Derbyremain out of the automatic promotion places due to Ipswich’s continued run ofform, as they comfortably defeated Charlton at Portman Road yesterday. The TractorBoys’ win moved them back into second place and only a point behind leadersBournemouth as the table looks to be taking shape.

They took the lead just after the half-hour mark,when defender Tommy Smith ventured forwards to scramble the ball home fromclose range. Daryl Murphy scored his 17th goal of the season afterDavid McGoldrick had hit the bar, to stretch the home side’s advantage on 59minutes and give the home fans some relief for the latter stages. McGoldrickhimself netted the third in injury time with a neat chipped finish after beingplayed in by Murphy, as Ipswich stretched their run to eleven games unbeaten inthe league.

The goal capped a fine display by McGoldrick, who had also twice hitthe post in the first-half.

Wigan Athletic 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Wiganlost their twelfth league game of the season as they fell to Austrian striker AtdheNuhiu’s headed goal in the 77th minute, after Callum McManaman hadbeen given a straight red card for the home side for a poor challenge on Owls’defender Claude Dielna. McManaman was clearly keen to make an impressionafter coming on as a substitute, but lasted only nine minutes before he saw redfor a crude sliding challenge. Even down to ten men, Malky Mackay’s side wereunfortunate not to equalise late on, when Ivan Ramis saw his header come backoff the post in what was a disappointing game overall with little quality onshow over the ninety (plus) minutes.

The defeat leaves Wigan in aperilous position second from bottom and without a home win since August, withonly Blackpool below them, while Wednesday continue to look upwards from theirmid-table position and have at least half an eye on the play-off positions.