Bald eagle flying

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The Independent Online
JIM SMITH put one over on one of his old clubs and is now on the verge of restoring Derby County, League champions in 1972 and 1975, to the elite.

After some near misses in recent years, Smith will guard against complacency but the signs are good after yesterday's 3-2 win over Portsmouth, the team he managed to within a whisker of the 1992 FA Cup final. Derby are now seven points clear of Charlton at the top of the First Division and also extended their run to 17 League games without defeat - a new club record.

Portsmouth went in front through Paul Hall after 62 minutes but Derby fought back with goals from the two Deans, Yates and Sturridge, and a third from Marco Gabbiadini. Alan McLoughlin replied with a penalty with four minutes left.

Dave Bassett's honeymoon period at Crystal Palace came to emphatic end when his team were beaten 3-0 at Huddersfield, who are 10 points behind Derby in fourth place. Andrew Booth scored his 15th goal of the season as Brian Horton's men took another step towards promotion.

Sunderland, in third place two points ahead of Huddersfield, needed a bizarre own-goal to maintain their challenge. The central defender Julian James headed a Michael Gray centre past a startled Ian Feuer after 38 minutes which brought to an end Luton's run of eight unbeaten League games since Lennie Lawrence took over as manager. His problems were compounded when his leading goalscorer, Dwight Marshall, broke a leg in the first half. Lawrence's former club, Charlton, stay in second place thanks to a 70th-minute equaliser from Kim Grant at Oldham.

There was little change in the Second Division, with the top three clubs all enjoying home victories. Swindon fell behind to Marcus Stewart's 23rd goal of the season for Bristol Rovers, but two late goals by Wayne Allison and Shaun Taylor secured a 2-1 success. Blackpool, three points behind Swindon, also had to come from behind to beat Brighton 2-1.

Jan Molby, the former Liverpool player, and Micky Adams, both made promising starts to their managerial careers. Molby played in defence as Second Division Swansea drew 0-0 at York while Adams, at Third Division Fulham, saw his struggling side beat Exeter 2-1 at Craven Cottage. The big surprise in that division saw Gillingham's lead at the top cut to three points after a 2-0 defeat to struggling Cardiff at Ninian Park.

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