Football: Copybook start for Coppell

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The Independent Online
Steve Coppell had the perfect start to his second spell as the manager of First Division Crystal Palace when the Eagles beat Oxford United 4-1 at the Manor Ground to keep the Londoners in the promotion hunt. Dean Gordon gave them the lead eight minutes before half-time, heading in Kevin Muscat's cross. The second half developed into something of a rout as two goals by Bruce Dyer and another from David Hopkin made Simon Marsh's late strike scant consolation for Oxford.

Coppell had quit the Manchester City hot seat in November after just 33 days claiming nervous exhaustion brought on by the pressures of a traditionally onerous job. Palace, for whom Coppell has been scouting, lured him back to the fray when Dave Bassett suddenly quit to become general manager of Nottingham Forest.

Many would say that nervous or mental frailty is implicit in accepting the City job in the first place, sensible Frank Clark the exception proving the rule.

City are undefeated in seven League games since Clark took over, their latest win coming at Bradford whose goalkeeper, Jonathan Gould, was sent off five minutes into the second half for a foul on Paul Dickov when the score was 0-0. The defender Richard Liburd came off the subs' bench to go in goal but could not stop Uwe Rosler's penalty nor Kevin Horlock's header two minutes later. Rosler added a third; it finished 3-1.

In an explosive game at Carrow Road, Norwich beat Huddersfield Town 2- 0 as both sides finished with nine men. Darren Eadie scored both goals but became the fourth player to be sent off by Billericay referee Andy D'Urso after his second bookable offence in the 90th minute.

"Unless something is done about the standard of officials we are going to end up with no teams and no games," the angry and bemused Norwich manager, Mike Walker, said, adding that the refereeing had made a mockery of the game. "We've just won so I haven't got an axe to grind. It's the game I'm concerned about."

Much ado in the FA Trophy third round. The tie at Moss Lane between Altrincham (Conference) and Bishop Auckland (Unibond Premier) was held up when away fans attacked the few police on duty. The referee took the players off the pitch for 24 minutes as up to 40 police reinforcements restored order. There were five arrests.

Thereafter, Bishops scored through a Nicky Peverell penalty and had Nigel Gray and Lee Ellison sent off for violent conduct - very apt - but are in the next round after the 1-0 win.

Englishmen abroad enjoyed mixed fortunes last night. Paul Ince scored twice late in the first half to help Roy Hodgson's Internazionale to a 3-0 victory over Piacenza in Italy's Serie A, but there was more misery for Bobby Robson when Barcelona had Miguel Angel Nadal and Abelardo Fernandez sent off and were beaten 4-0 away by Tenerife in the Spanish league.

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