Chelsea closer

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The Independent Online
THERE IS just one weekend of Endsleigh League fixtures remaining but only one promotion issue - Carlisle United up from the Third - has been settled and the relegation battle at the bottom of the Premiership, which has two weekends left, is every bit as nervy.

Chelsea all but removed themselves from the Premiership relegation equation with a 1-0 win over west London neighbours Queen's Park Rangers. The potential meeting of classical former England midfielders never quite materialised. Although the Rangers player-manager Ray Wilkins, no stranger to Stamford Bridge, selected himself, Chelsea's Glenn Hoddle stayed on the substitute's bench.

He did his work in the dressing room at half time. Rangers had the better of the first period but Chelsea threatened much more after the break and Frank Sinclair headed home his third goal in six games. "Possibly, we need another point," Hoddle said, "We've got three games to get it."

A disappointing game at the Dell ended in a goalless draw but gave Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday a point apiece to reduce the relegation concerns of both sides to all but the wildest of mathematical improbabilities.

The relegation worries of Leicester City and Ipswich Town ended some weeks ago when both booked places in next season's First Division. The wake at Filbert Street was as dull as expected - Leicester were jeered off at half time - but winger Jamie Lawrence put some pep into the proceedings after the break and they won 2-0, which on this season's form represented a rout.

In a day of missed opportunities in the Endsleigh League, Reading did themselves a power of good with a 2-1 win at relegated Bristol City to go second in the First Division.

Reading's cause was helped hugely by Grimsby who dashed Wolves's chance to close the gap at the top by holding Graham Taylor's side to a 0-0 draw at Blundell Park, in the course of which the Mariners' goalkeeper Jason Pearcey pulled off a series of excellent saves. Middlesbrough and Tranmere Rovers play today.

The nerves were no less exposed in the Second Division where leaders Birmingham went 2-0 up against Brighton, had Gary Cooper sent off and 28 minutes later were 3-2 behind. Mark Ward came to the rescue with a late equaliser. Second-placed Brentford lost 2-1 at home to Bournemouth, who look like survivors, while Huddersfield, still third, scratched a draw at relegation probables Cambridge, and Wycombe lost at home to similarly troubled Plymouth.

All of which left Carlisle to celebrate alone. Their 1-0 win at Colchester made them the first professional side to win promotion in England.