Football: Lincoln stencil in promotion at Sincil


THE one automatic promotion place in the Nationwide waiting to be settled yesterday saw Lincoln City dramatically snatch the third berth out of the Third Division behind Notts County and Macclesfield when they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-0 at Sincil Bank.

Torquay United had needed just a point from their final game - against Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road - to claim the place but saw the grail torn from their grasp when a Dean Smith penalty and Craig Maskell strike set up Orient's party-pooping 2-1 win. The Imps, meanwhile, beat lowly Brighton 2-0, the goals coming from Peter Fleming and Lee Thorpe.

So Torquay will have to go the play-off route along with Colchester United, whose final match was against the bottom team, Doncaster Rovers, playing their last Nationwide match before demotion to the GM Vauxhall Conference. After a pitch invasion in each half by disgruntled Rovers fans, Colchester emerged 1-0 winners. Scarborough and Barnet finished the day in the play- off places they occupied at the start. Boro will play Torquay, who have home advantage in the second leg, while Barnet meet Colchester, the first match to be played at Underhill. Rotherham United might have entered the frame late but, unhappily for them, their final match was at champions Notts County, who did not let up and won 5-2.

In the Second Division, Watford pipped Bristol City to the championship when they beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage. Peter Beardsley had equalised Gifton Noel-Williams' opener but Jason Lee secured the Hornets' title. Bristol, meanwhile were losing 2-1 at Preston North End , all the goals coming in the first 10 minutes at Deepdale. Despite their defeat, Fulham clung on to a play-off place as the four teams between fifth and eighth all finished with 70 points. But the Cottagers and Bristol Rovers, having scored more goals than Wrexham and Gillingham, get the extended season.

Rovers' 2-1 defeat of Brentford, Barry Hayles scoring a late winner, meant the Bees join Carlisle United, Southend United and Plymouth Argyle in the Third division next season

Grimsby Town, presumably saving themselves for the play-offs, suffered the indignity of a 2-0 home defeat against Oldham Athletic, but still finished third and will meet Fulham in the play-offs. Fourth-placed Northampton Town, who drew 0-0 at York City, will also enjoy home advantage in the second leg of their first round play-off match against Bristol Rovers.

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