Football: Brown's equaliser pins back Preston

SECOND AND THIRD DIVISION
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The Independent Online
STEVE BASHAM gave second-placed Preston North End the perfect start against fellow Second Division promotion hopefuls Manchester City at Deepdale.

Basham scored the opener in the first minute of the game, but Michael Brown hit back for Joe Royle's side in the 22nd minute to earn a 1-1 draw in front of 20,857 supporters - the biggest Deepdale crowd for a quarter of a century.

While Preston were sharing the spoils with City, Gillingham made ground, moving up to fifth with a 2-0 victory over Wycombe at Adams Park, Barry Ashby and Carl Asaba getting themselves on the scoresheet.

Stoke failed to significantly further their promotional claims when held to a 1-1 draw at Chesterfield. Steve Blatherwick found the net for the first time in four years after 26 minutes before David Oldfield equalised six minutes later.

Wigan remained on course for the seasonal play-offs with a smooth 2-0 victory over struggling Oldham at Springfield Park, Simon Haworth and Carl Bradshaw securing the points.

As things unfolded elsewhere, Oldham were getting off lightly despite their defeat. Wycombe and Lincoln were both beaten, the latter staying in the relegation mire after Fran Tierney struck the 67th minute winner for Notts County at Sincil Bank.

Next-to-bottom Northampton could only manage a 1-1 draw at Bristol Rovers despite Carlo Corazzin edging them ahead in the sixth-minute. That lead was wiped out by Gary Penrice's 101st career goal after Ian Hendon was sent off.

Burnley's survival chances increased when they hit back from a goal down at Turf Moor to beat Colchester 3-1. An Andy Payton's brace settled the issue.

Neil Harris hit his 18th goal of the season for Millwall to earn his side a 1-0 win over Blackpool at the New Den.

In the Third Division, leaders Cardiff had to wait until a 74th minute Kevin Nugent penalty to cancel out Colin Alcide's early effort for battling Hull City. The point increased the Bluebirds's lead to three points.

Paul Evans and Gavin Mahon struck late in the first half as Brentford kept up their promotional push with a 3-1 win over Plymouth at Griffin Park. Plymouth's woe was compounded by the dismissal of Paul Gibbs for serious foul play in the last minute.

Rotherham, now up to fifth, made good ground by beating Swansea 1-0, as Leyton Orient, Mansfield and Halifax were all held to disappointing draws.

Chris Tate's first hat-trick eased Scarborough's relegation fears in a 3-0 win over Carlisle at the McCain Stadium.

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