Football: Celtic fail to draw comfort

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The Independent Online
THE PROBLEMS at Celtic - player rebellion, indifferent results which hit a low with Wednesday night's home defeat by St Johnstone, dissatisfied fans - were scarcely eased by the dropping of more home points when Jim Hamilton's second-half equaliser gave Hearts a 1-1 draw at Parkhead.

After a tentative opening, Simon Donnelly put Celtic ahead in the 32nd minute in ther first real attack. Harald Brattbakk sent away Henrik Larsson on the right, and when the ball broke to Donnelly inside the area, and his powerful shot was deflected beyond Roddy McKenzie by Paul Ritchie.

On Tuesday, Celtic will try to improve on their 2-1 lead over Vitoria Guimaraes after the Uefa Cup second-round first leg in Portugal but Hearts did not improve their confidence when, eight minutes into the second half, Hamilton connected with Neil McCann's corner to equalise. Hearts, also on European duty, in Spain on Thursday, when they must recover from a 1- 0 deficit to Real Mallorca in the Cup-Winners' Cup, took greater comfort from the result.

South of the border, there were defeats for the leaders in all three divisions of the Nationwide League. Huddersfield lost top spot in the First following their 3-0 defeat at the Reebok Stadium which lifted Bolton Wanderers up to fifth. Sunderland's 1-1 draw at Portsmouth, thanks to Allan Johnston's 20-yard shot seven minutes from time, gave them the point and the leadership on goals scored.

Huddersfield, without leading scorer Marcus Stewart, trailed by two goals midway through the first half, Per Frandsen and the returning Nathan Blake scoring. Arnar Gunlaugsson made the game safe two minutes before the break.

Wolves, without a win in six games and dumped out of the Worthington Cup by Second Division Bournemouth, started with three strikers - Robbie Keane, Steve Bull and David Connolly - against Neil Warnock's resolute Bury and the tactics worked. Bull's 66th-minute diving header gave them a 1-0 win and moved them up to fourth.

Watford moved up to third thanks to a win by a similar magin over Ipswich Town at Vicarage Road. But it came somewhat earlier, Peter Kennedy converting a fifth-minute penalty awarded when Richard Wright, the Ipswich goalkeeper, brought down his namesake Nick, Watford's former Derby County forward.

Birmingham City slumped to a third consecutive defeat when they lost 2-0 at Norwich City. Craig Bellamy's eighth goal of the season in the 70th minute broke Brum's resistance and Iwan Roberts late addition sealed the Canaries win.

Bristol City won their first First Division game since promotion when they scored three in the first half to set up a 5-2 win over visitors Crewe. Oxford, mauled 7-0 by Sunderland last week, beat struggling Queen's Park Rangers 4-1.

In the Second Division, Stoke City lost their first home league game of the season, Blackpool's Martin Aldridge scoring twice in the 3-1 win but they stay top. No such luck for Darlington, who lost 3-0 at Brentford; Scunthorpe, 3-1 winners at Brighton, went top.