Leicester opened up a 10-point lead at the top of the Championship with a 4-1 thrashing of Huddersfield as promotion rivals Ipswich and Southampton failed to get 2024 off to a winning start.
Everton loanee Tom Cannon scored twice on his full debut for the Foxes as Leicester stretched their unbeaten run to 10 games.
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Cannon was signed by Enzo Maresca on deadline day in August despite carrying a back injury that delayed his debut until three weeks ago.
The Irishman was keen to make up for lost time as he blasted home the opener five minutes before half-time and then made the points safe with another clinical finish on the hour mark.
By that point Ricardo Pereira had already made it 2-0 and Stephy Mavididi’s free-kick rounded off the scoring after Michal Helik had pulled a goal back for Huddersfield.
“It hasn’t been easy for Tom, he was two or three months out with the injury,” said Maresca.
“Tom’s had to wait for his chance and, yes he scored two goals. But when you don’t play games, and suddenly you get your chance, everyone is expecting big things.
“I told him to ‘just go out there, and don’t think it’s your first time and you need to show people, or me, that you’re good. Because if you’re here, we think you’re good enough. Just enjoy it’.
Ipswich are now without a win in five games as their push for back-to-back promotions has stalled.
Kieran McKenna’s men were unable to make the most of a man advantage for the final half hour after Jordan Thompson was sent off in a 0-0 draw at Stoke.
Southampton missed the chance to close to within a point of the automatic promotion places as their winning streak came to an end in a 1-1 draw at Norwich.
Josh Sargent cancelled out Adam Armstrong’s opener for the Saints.
Leeds closed the gap on Ipswich to seven points with a comfortable 3-0 win over Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham.
Patrick Bamford, Dan James and Crysencio Summerville scored the goals for the home side at Elland Road.
Rooney has won just two of his 16 games since taking charge of Birmingham in October with the Blues now just six points above the relegation zone.
“I’m a fighter and I get football fans’ opinions,” said the former England captain on calls for him to be sacked.
“I have to draw on my career. My playing career wasn’t always about success.”
Sunderland climbed into the playoff places with a 2-0 win over Preston in a timely boost for the Black Cats ahead of their huge FA Cup clash with local rivals Newcastle on Saturday.
Hull dropped out of the bottom six after a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, that brought the Owls back to within three points of safety at the bottom of the table.
Fifth-placed West Brom succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Swansea.