Building Bridges

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The Independent Online
TWO headers in a frenzied final eight minutes by the 17-year-old substitute Michael Bridges gave Sunderland a ninth successive win to keep their drive at the top of the First Division in top gear. But they were run mightily close by a Huddersfield Town side reduced to 10 men at half- time when Ben Thornley threw the ball at the referee Neil Barry as they walked off the Roker Park pitch and was sent off.

At the time, the Terriers were holding Peter Reid's side 1-1. Kevin Ball's 24th-minute header had pulled the Wearsiders level after Rob Edwards had given the visitors the lead against the run of play. Andrew Booth headed in Darren Bullock's corner to put Huddersfield back in front and a shock loomed until Bridges calmed the troubled waters.

Second-placed Derby County have been wobbling in recent weeks but their manager, Jim Smith, did not want for nerve when the Rams trailed 1-0 at home to play-off contenders Stoke. He replaced the Croatian defender Igor Stimac with striker Dean Sturridge and watched as the substitute scored twice in Derby's 3-1 comeback win.

The top two's biggest threat is coming from rampant Crystal Palace who crushed Millwall 4-1 at the New Den. George Ndah scored two late goals after the Lions' Alex Rae had missed a penalty (he later scored one) and Jason Van Blerk was sent off.

Charlton's pounds 400,000 investment in QPR's Bradley Allen paid off when he scored the only goal of their game at Norwich. Two goals by Simon Milton kept Ipswich Town's play-off hopes on the boil and increased Luton's peril but it is not as grave as Watford's. Graham Taylor rarely won at Molineux when he was manager of Wolves and did no better when he returned with the Hornets. Simon Osborn scored twice as Wolves won 3-0.

Two hundred Leicester City fans staged a sit-in at Filbert Street after a 2-0 defeat by strugglers Sheffield United. The disgruntled gathering demanded the removal of the chairman Martin George and manager Martin O'Neill. "After six years of success as a manager this is a new experience for me," O'Neill said. "The onus was on us to take the game to Sheffield but we lacked the confidence and self belief. It's going to be difficult to get back into the promotion race."

The place to be last night was Stirling. Despite losing at home to Stenhousemuir, the Scottish Second Division club became the first in the professional ranks to win promotion after Berwick lost to Clyde.

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