Football: Forest claim first at Oxford

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest, hoping for a quick return to the Premiership, passed an awkward examination at Oxford United to maintain their 100 per cent start in the First Division. A goal from the substitute Chris Bart- Williams midway through the second half was enough to subdue the Us.

Although Forest had the majority of possession, Oxford, missing nine first-team players, forced on-loan goalkeeper Dave Beasant into several saves. Dave Bassett's side pressed hard in the second half and won the match when Bart-Williams volleyed in Alan Rogers' corner.

Sheffield United's good form under Nigel Spackman continued when they beat Portsmouth 2-1 at Bramall Lane. Jan Age Fjortoft scored both of the Blades' goals. Swindon Town and Bradford City, who both struggled last season, have no intention of doing so again. The Robins lost their perfect record, held 1-1 at home by Huddersfield, but are third. Bradford are fourth following a 2-1 win over Ipswich.

Birmingham City have a 100 per cent record, too, thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win over Reading. "I think the result probably looks better on paper," Trevor Francis, Brum's hard-to-please manager, said. Their neighbours, West Brom, also have a perfect record and this afternoon entertain Wolves, who have signed the former Wimbledon goalkeeper Hans Segers, cleared of match-fixing charges this month, on a one-year contract.

Forest seem to be coping with their drop in status but Middlesbrough and Sunderland look less well-attuned. Boro were beaten 1-0 at home by Stoke, Paul Stewart scoring. Viv Anderson, the Boro assistant manager, was not happy. "We did not have the knowhow or gumption to break them down. A lot of people had a lot to say about it afterwards but we will keep that in the dressing-room."

And the Wearsiders lost 3-1 at Port Vale, Tony Naylor scoring twice. "You'll have to go a long way to see two goals better than those," the Vale manager, John Rudge, said. "The three points were invaluable after our poor start to the season."

In the Second Division, the leaders Watford have the only clean record after a 3-1 defeat of Brentford while the league`s new members, Macclesfield, head the Third Division but only the Welsh cities, Swansea and Cardiff, having played a game less, have yet to drop points.

In Scotland, Paul Gascoigne made his first appearance of the season for Rangers after a three-match ban but was somewhat overshadowed by Marco Negri, a pounds 3.75m summer signing from Perugia, who scored all of the Scottish champions' goals in the 5-1 thrashing of Dundee United. "I enjoyed all my goals equally. All goals are beautiful," Negri said poetically, having doubled his season's total.

A first-half hat-trick in the space of eight minutes past the half hour, sealed the fate of the three points. It was just the sort of fillip Rangers needed before Wednesday's Champions Cup home leg against Gothenburg of Sweden, a tie they trail in 3-0. Gascoigne was given a standing ovation when he was substituted after 72 minutes.