Brighton escape punishment from FA

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The Independent Online
Brighton have been given fresh hopes for survival with news that the Football Association is not taking any immediate action following their interrupted home game with Leyton Orient on 8 March.

Orient's former England midfielder, Ray Wilkins, was among the players attacked by home fans during the 4-4 draw at the Goldstone Ground. The Seagulls, currently bottom of the Third Division after being docked two points for an early-season pitch invasion, had feared further action, which might have proved fatal to their hopes of staying in the Nationwide League.

But it is now understood that the FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, does not believe that the interests of the game would be best served by disciplinary action at this stage. Five people were arrested by police after the incident, which some home fans had partially blamed on allegedly "provocative" gestures by a number of Orient players.

The Football League chairman, David Sheepshanks, yesterday called for a review of the way in which international matches disrupt the Nationwide League fixture programme.

International call-ups, at full and under-21 level, have meant problems again over the Easter holiday, with the Nationwide League not granted a shutdown like the Premiership.

Several clubs have a fixture backlog after requesting postponements when they have players on international duty, and the Football League has outlined five areas it believes need to be addressed, including the criteria for postponing Football League matches, the rescheduling of matches to midweek dates which affects crowd figures, and compensation for under-21 internationals, who are often crucial players for Nationwide teams.

"We rightly insist on a level playing field in competition rules, so it is peculiar that we should then penalise Football League teams for raising young international stars either to their detriment or by expecting them to play matches without them," Sheepshanks said.

Crystal Palace breathed a sigh of relief after transfer deadline day passed without a big-money offer for their highly-rated midfielder David Hopkin, and he is available for the game against Birmingham City after suspension. Republic of Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton is also available after being given permission to miss the World Cup qualifier against Macedonia following his recent hip problem.

Birmingham's squad includes the Derby defender Darren Wassall, who joined them on loan for the rest of the season. Striker Kevin Francis is pressing for a recall after scoring twice for the reserves on Wednesday.

The Portsmouth club captain, Martin Allen, is set to return against Bradford for the first time in seven months after a knee injury. He steps in as Pompey are without Alan McLoughlin - on World Cup duty with the Republic - and David Hillier, who starts a two-match ban.

The Bradford manager, Chris Kamara, adds the 21-year-old striker Robert Blake, a pounds 300,000 signing from Darlington, and right-back Chris Wilder, signed from Notts County, to his squad. Midweek signing Carl Tiler must wait to make his debut for Sheffield United against Reading as they try to close the gap on the second automatic promotion place. Tiler, a pounds 600,000 buy from Aston Villa, is suspended.

Defender Phil King is in line to make his second debut for Swindon after rejoining them on a free transfer, also from Villa. Leading scorer Wayne Allison and defender Gary Elkins are both suspended, while striker Steve Finney, the on-loan Blackburn Rovers defender Graham Coughlan and midfielder Ty Gooden are all challenging for places.