Football: Barnes' Bhoys storm home again

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The Independent Online
CELTIC CONTINUED their scintillating start to the league season in Scotland with a comfortable 3-0 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead, Mark Viduka adding another goal to the brace he scored against Aberdeen in their first game of the season last weekend.

Any doubts about the team shape favoured by John Barnes were swept aside with a marvellous display of controlled attacking football to which the visitors had no answer. Celtic dictated the pace of the game from the start and quickly took the lead after Lubomir Moravcik's sixth-minute corner was only half-cleared and the defender, Johan Mjallby, fired in the loose ball.

Viduka made it 2-0, tapping in when Alan Main, the St Johnstone goalkeeper, failed to hold Henrik Larsson's 28th-minute shot. Five minutes after the break another teasing free-kick from Moravcik was headed in by Morten Wieghorst to make it 3-0. The Slovak Moravcik and the Israeli midfielder, Eyal Berkovic, carved out several more chances for the home side, all spurned.

Off the pitch, Celtic are investigating allegations that forged season tickets have been offered to fans for pounds 100 less than the genuine price. Parkhead has 52,000 season-ticket holders and a waiting list of 10,000. The forgers allegedly obtained details of the club's waiting lists and contacted fans direct.

In England, the fixture every Nationwide First Division manager prayed for, home to Port Vale, fell to Blackburn Rovers. But Brian Kidd's relegated side were unable to overcome the team which won only three and lost 15 of 23 league matches on the road last season, and it finished goalless.

Last August, Clive Mendonca, the Charlton Athletic striker, scored a hat-trick on the first day of the season and, despite the trauma of relegation in May, he did it again as Alan Curbishley's side beat Barnsley 3-1 at The Valley. Two of Mendonca's goals came from the penalty spot.

Other clubs who'd spent much of last season fighting relegation from the First Division got off to a bright start: Queen's Park Rangers were 3-1 winners over Huddersfield Town (under Steve Bruce's new management) and Portsmouth, watched by new owner Milan Mandaric, beat Bruce's former club, Sheffield United, 2-0 at Fratton Park.

We all know the feeling. First day in a new job at a more demanding level. Ray Graydon's Walsall, promoted to the Nationwide First Division behind Fulham in May, coped with the challenge and got a point from a 0-0 draw with Swindon Town at Bescot Stadium. But sterner tests await the Saddlers.

In the Nineties, manager Brian Little has collected Midlands clubs as voraciously as West Bromwich Albion has accumulated managers and it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later their paths would cross. Little's first match in The Hawthorns' ejector seat ended with a 1-1 draw against Norwich City, Paul Raven equalising Paul Dalglish's first goal for the Canaries.

It is unlikely that any wheeling-dealing club manager had a busier close season than either Simon Paterson or John Kelly, the receivers in charge of Crystal Palace and Luton Town respectively. Both clubs eventually got the league's go-ahead to compete this season two minutes before midnight on Friday.

Mr Paterson was probably prepared for the typically frustrating Palace performance which saw them dominate Crewe Alexandra and Lee Bradbury miss a penalty before Simon Rodger put them ahead. But Mark Rivers equalised five minutes from time. Mr Kelly's charges drew 0-0 at Notts County, an appropriate start.

Finally, Brighton do like to be beside the seaside. Back on the South coast after a season lodging in Kent, they thrashed Mansfield Town 6-0.