Barnsley blow it

By Geoff Brown
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The Independent Online
LIKE middle-distance runners barging each other for position as they approach to the bell, the Endsleigh First Division sides in or near the play-off places spent much of yesterday agitatedly jockeying for position. Barnsley betrayed their nerves with a remarkable display of stupidity.

Three-nil ahead with five minutes left of their home game against promotion rivals Ipswich, thoughts were turning to tea and crumpets. Then the Yorkshire side's goalkeeper, Dave Watson, tried to beat Ian Marshall, failed, and gave away a needless goal.

Three minutes later, Marshall raced on to Simon Milton's pass to make it 3-2. Thoroughly panicked, Barnsley watched as Alex Mathie crossed and Milton headed a last minute equaliser.

South London's challengers both won at home, Charlton 2-1 in a derby against Millwall, their first double over the Lions in 61 years, while Dougie Freedman's goal against West Brom gave Crystal Palace the points. Last week, Huddersfield bought Crewe's leading scorer, Rob Edwards. He it was who scored the only goal of the game against Luton. Norwich drew 1-1 with Portsmouth at Carrow Road, the Canaries 12th home match without a win.

Emile Heskey scored twice as Leicester beat Grimsby 2-1 to keep similar hopes alive at Filbert Street but the man most likely to remember the day was linesman John Wilkinson. He collided with the corner flag - and you thought only referees needed glasses - and required touchline treatment before giving way to the reserve official.

At the bottom, Graham Taylor celebrated his first win since his return to Watford, Craig Ramage scoring twice as the Hornets beat fellow strugglers Oldham 2-1. A place above them, Port Vale beat Southend to improve their chances of survival and Reading needed no motivation to make their point in a 1-1 draw at Wolves, managed by former boss Mark McGhee.

In the Second Division, Blackpool went second after beating Notts County 1-0 while Crewe slipped up, losing 2-1 at home to Bristol Rovers. In the Third, Preston, second, drew at leaders Gillingham but Darlington lost at home to Torquay, bottom of the entire league - Royalty was respected the last time they won away. Plymouth went third after a 3-2 win at Cambridge.

Finally, itinerant, acrobatic goalkeeper extraordinaire John Burridge, 44, made his debut for Queen of the South, his fifth Scottish club - he has also played for 14 English sides - and kept a clean sheet as the Second Division side beat East Fife 1-0.