Football: Bull turns the heat on Barnsley

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Wolves kept up the pressure on Barnsley for the First Division's second automatic promotion place to the Premiership with a 4-1 thumping of Southend United, who dropped to rock bottom, while the Tykes were toughing out a creditable 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

The game at Molineux was in effect over five minutes before half-time. Darren Ferguson's free-kick 25-yards out and a Steve Bull header put Wolves 2-0 up in nine minutes and after Andy Rammell pulled one back on the half-hour, Mark Atkins, from close in, and Don Goodman's powerful 40th- minute header made it 4-1.

Barnsley, meanwhile, battled to make their point from a hard-fought match at Selhurst Park. Palace created three good chances and took the fourth, Neil Shipperley's 40th-minute header doing full justice to Simon Rodger's booming cross. But a Neil Thompson equaliser from the penalty spot after a foul on Paul Wilkinson kept Barnsley five points clear of Wolves with three games to play.

"I was delighted with the point," the Barnsley manager Danny Wilson said, "and now I'm looking for us to win two of our remaining games as we must work on the basis that Wolves will win all their games." Barnsley's defender Matt Appleby damaged ankle ligaments and misses the rest of the season.

Palace remain just outside the play-off berths but Sheffield United consolidated with a 1-1 draw at Tranmere. On the fringes, Queen's Park Rangers won 3-0 at Manchester City, another two goals for John Spencer, but Portsmouth lost 2-1 at Charlton, Mark Bright scoring both.

Southend's woe at Wolves was compounded by Grimsby's 2-0 defeat of Reading, a win that lifted the Mariners out of the relegation places at the expense of Bradford, beaten 2-0 at home by Birmingham.

In the Second Division, the leaders Bury beat ailing Peterborough 1-0 at Gigg Lane and have the deposit down on a second consecutive automatic promotion. Second-placed Brentford lost 2-0 at home to Crewe which renewed Luton's interest. They beat Shrewsbury 2-0.

Lastly, Lou Macari, the Stoke City manager, has added piquancy to this afternoon's First Division Potteries derby against the play-off candidates Port Vale, the last one played at the Victoria Ground before Stoke move to the new Britannia Stadium next season, by announcing his resignation at the end of the season.

Macari claimed wrongful dismissal and sued Celtic for pounds 431,000 after being sacked in July 1994. He'd been in charge for eight months. The Glasgow club issued a counter-suit for breach of contract and pounds 250,000. Macari has already spent several months in court.

"I have to think of myself but also of how I can put the club first," he said. "I cannot serve Stoke's best interests while spending time with my barrister." Makes a change from wanting to spend more time with the family.