Football: Aspiring Oxford

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The Independent Online
OXFORD UNITED, pounds 13m in debt and having to sell their better players to pay the rest of the squad's wages, pulled off the shock of the day in the Nationwide First Division by beating Birmingham City 1-0 at St Andrews.

In a rare interruption to the constant Brum pressure, stemmed only by Philip Whitehead's fine saves, Andy Thompson and Dean Windass combined to set up Matt Murphy in the 27th minute and he hammered in a low shot from just inside the six-yard box.

At the top, Sunderland maintained their lead with a 2-0 win at Port Vale thanks to a Neil Aspin first-half own goal and Niall Quinn's second-half strike.

Second-placed Ipswich Town made light of the absence of their Spurs-boundArgentinian full-back, Mauricio Taricco, with a 1-0 win over Barnsley at Oakwell. David Johnson's 11th goal of the season, with a header, gave the Suffolk side a fifth-minute lead they never looked like losing. The Tykes' central defender, Arjan De Zeeuw, was sent off in the first half.

Colin Lee's chances of turning his caretaker manager appointment at Wolverhampton Wanderers into something more permanent improved yet again with a goalless draw at Norwich City, making it two wins and a draw under his stewardship. "The board told me to carry on as if I was manager. That's what I've done, I even went on a scouting mission abroad on Friday," Lee said.

At the bottom, Gerry Francis' Queen's Park Rangers won their third game in succession, a 2-0 victory at Gresty Road, where Gavin Peacock and Mike Sheron scored to prolong Crewe's run of poor results.

Lee Hughes scored a hat-trick as West Bromwich Albion beat Huddersfield Town 3-1. It was Hughes' third hat-trick of the season. "He should have scored more. He missed a number of easier chances. I know he has got 21 goals [in 20 games] so far this season but he could have taken that figure up to 30." That was his manager, Denis Smith.

Petr Kachuro also scored a hat-trick, for Sheffield United, 3-1 winners over Bury.

Finally, Bristol City, who had leaked 11 goals in their two previous matches, kept it down to two against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park but, of course, still lost, 2-1. Lee Bradbury's goal was his first for Palace.