Fighting mars QPR victory

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The Independent Online
The tensions of the race for First Division play-off places seems to be spilling over on to the terraces. Eight minutes into the second half of the match between Queen's Park Rangers and Portsmouth at Loftus Road, fighting started in the Ellerslie Road stand, forcing other supporters to seek shelter on the pitch and the referee, Kevin Lynch, to take the players off for 15 minutes while the trouble was quelled. Four people were injured, not seriously, and nine arrested.

Lee Bradbury had given Pompey the lead with his 13th goal of the season but Rangers' substitute Paul Murray, on for Trevor Sinclair, equalised with a fine curling shot. Then came the ruckus. Afterwards, John Spencer's 12th goal of '96-'97 won the match for Rangers, ending Pompey's run of seven matches without defeat.

The Portsmouth manager, Terry Fenwick, said the skirmishing affected his players. "I don't know whether it was our fans or theirs who were responsible but it was disgraceful We have a young team and I tried to get them back to the dressing room quickly to calm them down but it's bound to affect them. It's pathetic really, I thought we had got away from all this aggravation."

The metaphorical alarm bells have been ringing for so long at Maine Road that when the real ones went off in the North Stand it's a surprise that anyone, let alone the local fire brigade, took any notice. Well, they did. Half of the North Stand was evacuated and, when the all-clear sounded, seated again.

After all that, Manchester City kicked off 45 minutes late against Stoke, but it did not fluster the former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson, returning to this country to make his City debut after a move from the Turkish club Fenerbahce. He scored after 63 minutes to set his club on their way to a 2-0 win, denting Stoke's play-off hopes. City's, though distant, remain.

Speaking of distant, that's what Bolton are to the rest of the Division. A hard-won 1-0 victory at Norwich, Scott Sellars scoring after 24 minutes, puts them 19 points clear of second-placed Wolves who lost 2-1 at Bradford.

A lively time here, too, Edinho, Bradford's Brazilian, was booked for diving in the box after a tackle by Keith Curle. The pair began fighting and almost half of the 22 players joined in. After consulting his linesman the referee, Trevor West, did nothing. Wonder which constituency he's standing for?

Port Vale crept into a play-off place with a 1-0 win over Swindon; Crystal Palace will replace them if they beat Oldham today.