Football: Hoddle resuscitates Swindon

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The Independent Online
THE extraordinary events at Birmingham City yesterday could have come straight from the front page of a David Sullivan publication. With 30 minutes left, the Blues were leading Swindon Town 4-1 and looked all set for three vital points to help them remain in the Barclays League First Division. But then Glenn Hoddle marched forward . . .

Half an hour - and five goals - later, Craig Maskell had scored twice, Dave Mitchell had gone one better and Swindon were 6-4 winners, strengthening their promotion hopes. 'After Hoddle moved into midfield they passed the ball around and we were chasing shadows,' Terry Cooper, the City manager, said. Hoddle added: 'We threw caution to the wind and came back from the dead. It is a compliment to our courage, skill level and commitment - and it is Easter Monday.'

Tranmere's dream of competing against Liverpool and Everton next season was given further credibility by their 2-1 success over Barnsley at Prenton Park. A 73rd-minute Kenny Irons special settled the game, allowing Rovers to climb over Millwall and Leicester into fifth.

Sunderland, managed by Terry Butcher, Hoddle's former England colleague, slipped closer to the relegation zone when they fell to Neil Woods's cool 79th-minute strike at Grimsby. Another ex-England Rokerite, Mick Harford, was dismissed in the first half for a second bookable offence.

Mark Stein, with a brace at Rotherham, propelled Stoke City closer to the First Division but Bolton's charge up the table has turned the heat on another Potteries club, Port Vale. Swansea City took an early lead at Burnden Park, but were pegged back after the break as Bolton found the net through Scott Green, twice, and David Lee. The Trotters cantered past West Brom, who were humiliated 5-2 at home by Plymouth Argyle, and now lie a point behind second-placed Vale, who entertain Bradford City tonight.

Stockport, five points behind West Brom, were floored by three first-half goals at Brisbane Road, a result that lifts Leyton Orient into the play-off realm. Brighton can return above the O's and Reading by taking a point off Hull tomorrow.

At the bottom, Preston's narrow triumph at Exeter City eased them away from trouble and condemned Chester City to the Third. Even if Chester win all their remaining games they can reach only 44 points, still not enough to drag them from the basement now that Preston have escaped.

The four-horse race in the League's lowest division is gathering pace, Cardiff, York and Wrexham all winning while Barnet rested. Third-placed Bees will return to the top if they defeat troubled Torquay tonight.