Fleck plays loan ranger

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The Independent Online
TWO Scottish expatriates are leading the East Anglian promotion challenge in the Endsleigh First Division, although Chelsea fans may find it hard to believe - let alone stomach - that Robert Fleck is one of them.

Breathtakingly unsuccessful at Stamford Bridge, the pounds 2m striker returned to Carrow Road and scored after only 24 minutes of his loan spell with Norwich.

The fifth-placed Canaries had taken the lead against Port Vale five minutes earlier when Andy Johnson nodded in a Darren Eadie cross. It finished 2-1.

"Robert is a bubbly character and he has brought a lot of confidence into the dressing-room and on to the field," the Norwich manager, Martin O'Neill, said.

After his Ipswich side, who are third, had thrashed Stoke 4-1 last week, the manager George Burley was less than buoyant: "We did not pass the ball that well and left holes at the back." Yesterday's 3-0 humbling of Sunderland provided ample opportunity for further grumbling, particularly in the direction of the Scottish striker Alex Mathie, who scored a hat- trick. The Rokerites' manager, Peter Reid, was even less enamoured of Town's efforts. "I've often played in the better side and lost but it has usually been by a single goal - seldom a 3-0 margin," he glumly observed.

At the Valley, the watching managers Bruce Rioch (Arsenal) and David Pleat (Sheffield Wednesday) will have been impressed by Charlton's 2-1 win over Huddersfield. The combative midfielder Shaun Newton starred and scored. His manager, Alan Curbishley, purred over the young side. "A lot of the lads are just out of nappies. Some are a bit nervous but they are in the team on merit. I want them to get out there and strut a bit."

At the bottom, Sheffield United, tipped for promotion by some, are failing spectacularly and lost their fifth consecutive match, 3-1 at West Brom. Dave Bassett, the Blades manager, is "concerned but not worried".

In the Second Division, Swindon continued to make the pace with a 2- 0 win at Brentford, which knocked Bradford, beaten 4-0 at home by Wycombe, off the top. In the Third, the leaders Gillingham lost the Endsleigh's last 100 per cent record.