Football: Jones keeps Charlton on their high

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The Independent Online
STEVE JONES scored the only goal of a tight, tense game at the County Ground as a determined Charlton Athletic beat Swindon Town to stay fourth in the Nationwide First Division, seven points adrift of an automatic promotion place but looking certainties for the play-offs.

Fighting an unambitious Swindon side, swirling wind and driving rain, Charlton claimed the three points when Jones blocked Ty Gooden's clearance, gathered the rebound and slipped the ball past Fraser Digby in the home side's goal.

At the opposite end of the division, the relegation battle took another twist when Reading beat Stoke City 2-0 at Elm Park, to move up two places and consign Chris Kamara's side to bottom place. The Reading manager, Tommy Burns, fielded six of the seven players he brought to the club on transfer deadline day but two players with slightly longer Elm Park pedigrees scored the goals.

Michael O'Neill, a midfielder on loan from Coventry, headed the first just past the half-hour and three minutes into the second half set up Michael Meaker, the former QPR player.

"There is great potential at this club," Burns said, "and everyone is working really hard to keep Reading up. It's a long hard job but a very exciting one." With games against Charlton, Middlesbrough, Wolves and Nottingham Forest to come, he's not joking.

There was better news from the Potteries other threatened side as Port Vale picked up three valuable points from a 3-0 win over Oxford United at Vale Park.

"We've got a really tough run-in and this was a massive victory," John Rudge, the Vale manager, said. "The points were what mattered, but the performance was also good and will give us a tremendous lift."

At Fratton Park, Portsmouth grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser when the defender Andy Thomson forced the ball in after a corner (a towering Dele Adebola header had given Birmingham City the lead five minutes earlier). Pompey stay a place above the relegation zone. Norwich City lost 3-2 at home to Bradford City, the Canaries' 13th league game without a win. Bradford scored their goals in a six-minute spell either side of half-time. "At 3-0 I should have been lighting up a cigar," Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager said, "but we made problems for ourselves and were hanging on for grim death at the end."

In the Second Division, Bristol City's 1-0 win over Carlisle leaves them five points from promotion. Second-placed Watford lost at Wigan. In the Third Division, the game between the doomed bottom club, Doncaster Rovers, and fellow strugglers Hull City was held up for 10 minutes when, after 12 minutes' play, a single supporter sat down in the centre circle.

He was quickly joined by fans of both sides protesting at the way their clubs are being run. Or is that run down? They left the field before police reinforcements arrived and then saw Rovers postpone Vauxhall Conference membership when Ade Mike scored the game's only goal in time added on.

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