Football: Forest fired by Van Hooijdonk

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The Independent Online
AT the end of the week in which the Christmas decorations came down, the leaders of the Nationwide First and Second Divisions were similarly removed from their lofty perches as Nottingham Forest and Bristol City climbed to the top of their respective trees.

At the City Ground, First Division Forest were given a fright before beating Port Vale 2-1. Vale took a 16th-minute lead when Lee Mills scored with a fierce drive from Tony Naylor's cushioned header. Remarkably, it was only Vale's second goal in nine games. Enter Pierre van Hooijdonk, Forest's customary saviour. Eleven minutes after Mills's opener he equalised with a 25-yard free-kick and seven minutes from the final whistle he grabbed the winner, taking his season's total to 23 and Forest to the top.

There were goals aplenty elsewhere in the First Division. Sunderland were too bright for Sheffield United at the Stadium of Light and leapfrogged the Blades with a 4-2 win. Dean Saunders gave Sheffield the lead in their first attack but all of the action had been around the Sheffield penalty area with the goalkeeper, Gary Kelly, in outstanding form.

Niall Quinn got the Wearsiders' deserved equaliser when he fired in through a ruck of players from 15 yards after a 21st-minute corner. The Blades stood firm until midway through the second half when Alex Rae at last put Sunderland ahead.

Kevin Phillips increased the hosts' lead with his 12th goal in his last 11 games which also meant a goal in each of the last six games, equalling the club record. And although Gareth Taylor pulled one back for the visitors, Phillips struck again in the final minute.

Wolves continued their good start to the second half of the campaign with a 5-0 demolition of Norwich City at Molineux. Dougie Freedman scored a hat-trick and another hat-trick, by Birmingham City's Paul Furlong in their 7-0 rout of Stoke City in the Potteries, sparked a demonstration on the pitch by hundreds of Stoke fans calling for the resignation of the chairman, Peter Coates.

Portsmouth remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the First Division following their 3-0 defeat at Fratton Park by their fellow strugglers Manchester City. Craig Russell got the Sky Blues' first a minute from half-time when he finished off a flowing move involving Georgi Kinkladze and Michael Brown, although Pompey were convinced Brown handled in the build-up. Kinkladze and, a minute from the end, Uwe Rosler rounded off an important win for City.

Huddersfield Town continued their climb to safety with a 5-1 defeat of Oxford United while Bradford City, who sacked their manager, Chris Kamara, in the week reaped immediate benefits from Paul Jewell's work as caretaker manager when they won 2-1 at Stockport County.

In the Second Division, the former leaders Graham Taylor's Watford were surprisingly beaten 2-0 at bottom club Burnley, managed by Chris Waddle. The defeat allowed Bristol City, 4-1 winners over Grimsby Town, to go top on goals scored while their neighbours, Bristol Rovers, won 2-1 at Plymouth Argyle to go third.

Finally, great news for Doncaster Rovers! The team at the foot of the Third Division won their second game of the season when Prince Moncrieffe's 75th minute strike earned a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town. The bad news is they're still nine points adrift of Brighton.

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