Football: Adebola on mark again

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The Independent Online
THE MIDLANDS' trademarked sleeping giants in the First Division - Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion - have started the season wide awake. Second-placed Brum maintained their 100 per cent record with a 2-0 win at Sheffield United, the game turning on the 53rd-minute sending off of the Blades' defender, Ian Hamilton, for two fouls in the space of five minutes. Two minutes later Dele Adebola scored his fifth goal in five games; Nicky Forster made it safe for Brum with nine minutes remaining.

"A sending off and diabolical defending for the second goal cost us the game," Steve Bruce, last year's Brum player of the year who is now the Blades' player-coach, said. "Up until then it was pretty even but once we went down to 10 men that was the end of the game".

Birmingham's Second City neighbours, West Brom, are fifth thanks to Lee Hughes's hat-trick which secured the 3-0 win at Port Vale. Hughes has six goals for the season. "We are developing nicely into a team and I'm under no pressure to sell my best players," Denis Smith, the Albion manager said. "I've already turned down a couple of sizeable offers for Kevin Kilbane and anyone bidding for Lee Hughes will be told the same."

Wolves were less rampant, relying on Keith Curle's penalty to claim the three points against Swindon Town at Molineux.

Promoted Watford are third keeping their perfect record with a 4-1 with at Bristol City, who came up with them from the Second Division in May. Richard Johnson scored twice for Graham Taylor's side. Sunderland are also scoring freely, they punished a slack Tranmere Rovers at the Stadium Of Light with a 5-0 drubbing, Daniele Dichio scoring twice.

Crystal Palace gave Terry Venables his first win charge with a 2-0 defeat of Oxford United at Selhurst Park while Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw at Venables's previous club, Portsmouth, was the East Anglians' third in a row. They hit the post, shuddered the bar and were thwarted by several fine saves by Aaron Flahavan's in the Pompey goal.

Bury's good start under Neil Warnock continued, beating Crewe 1-0 at Gigg Lane, the same score by which Grimsby Town beat Huddersfield Town. It took the Mariners' first goal of the season after seven hours and one minute - a Paul Groves penalty - but it gained them their first points.

In the Second Division, Stoke City, Bournemouth and Fulham have yet to drop a point while in the Third Rotherham are the only side with nine points after three games.

An injury time brawl at Gillingham involving all of the 22 players except the home side's goalkeeper, Vince Bartram, saw the Gills' Barry Ashby and Adrian Pennock and Bristol Rovers' Trevor Challis and goalkeeper Lee Jones sent off.

Finally, another pristine football ground, Second Division Reading's pounds 37m Madjeski Stadium, opened for business yesterday and it certainly did the trick for Tommy Burns's side who had begun the season in fairly desperate form.

After 10 minutes, Grant Brebner scored the first goal in the new stadium. Further strikes by Jim McIntyre and Robert Fleck gave Reading their first points of the season.