Football: Mitchell lights way forward

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Swindon Town. . . 2

Tranmere Rovers. .0

THE LIGHTS stayed bright for Swindon last night and illuminated a dazzling display of passing skills and attacking verve good enough to ease them above Tranmere and closer to the leading pair, Newcastle and West Ham: they are now fifth in the First Division.

Naturally enough, they shone most of all on Glenn Hoddle, who forsook his normal role as the spare defender to launch a series of threatening raids from his once-familiar midfield territory.

The Swindon player-manager manufactured the second goal with a delightful chip pass and was a talent beyond Tranmere's scope and to be admired throughout.

In December Tranmere held a 2-1 advantage at the County Ground before the floodlights failed and forced them to make the long journey a second time, and on this occasion without their predator-in-chief, John Aldridge.

At no stage did they look capable of a repeat performance. Superior in every department Swindon were full value for their win which puts them a place and a point behind Portsmouth, who are the next visitors to their patch on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Tranmere proceed from this disappointment - they also had five players booked, mostly for dissent - to a Prenton Park meeting with Newcastle. Having lost their last three games without so much as a single goal to their name, their own promotion aspirations have taken on a different, less promising, hue.

Craig Maskell was also indisposed with hamstring trouble, so both sides had their leading guns stilled by injury. In their absence David Mitchell seized his chance to shine, scoring with a volley with only nine minutes gone and then again at the start of the second half as he was first to read Hoddle's improvisation which cut out a row of bemused defenders.

There was no indication that Swindon had need for their 48th- minute insurance, so ineffective had the visitors been as an attacking force. Indeed, they were thankful to their goalkeeper Eric Nixon for keeping the score to within respectable limits. He saved smartly from Steve White and Paul Bodin before half-time, later denied Mitchell his hat-trick and then went full length to turn away Martin Ling's shot which climaxed another sparkling incursion.

Swindon Town: Digby; Kerslake, Bodin, Hoddle, Calderwood, Taylor, Summerbee, MacLaren, Mitchell, Ling, White. Substitutes not used: Close, Hunt.

Tranmere Rovers: Nixon; Higgins, Nolan (Muir, 78), Irons, Mungall, Vickers, Morrissey, Martindale, Malkin, McNab, Nevin. Substitute not used: Brannan.

Referee: R Lewis (Great Bookham).

Grimsby Town stayed on the fringe of the First Division promotion race with a 1-0 win over Oxford United at the Manor Ground last night. Dave Gilbert scored the decisive goal.