Football: Nationwide League: Birmingham looking to make ground on leaders

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The Independent Online
BIRMINGHAM CITY will close the gap on the First Division leaders Sunderland to six points if they beat Barnsley at Oakwell today.

With Sunderland not playing their match against Ipswich until tomorrow, second-placed Birmingham can cut the deficit, at least for 24 hours. But their manager Trevor Francis will be warning his players to guard against complacency when they travel to South Yorkshire. Barnsley have already won away to Sunderland this season.

"Along with Sunderland, I would say Barnsley are the most impressive side side I have seen here this season," Francis said. "And any side that goes to the Stadium of Light and comes away with three points has to be highly respected."

Barnsley's player-manager John Hendrie is hoping his side can kick-start their push for an immediate return to the top flight with victory over the Blues. "It was disappointing to be beaten by West Brom last weekend, but there is a long way to go this season and we still have a lot to play for. We can still make the play-offs," Hendrie said.

Bolton are hoping to stretch their unbeaten run in the League with a win at Sheffield United. "We have now gone 10 games without defeat and we are hoping to extend that to 11 at Sheffield," Todd said. "The whole side has come together recently and I'm really delighted with every one of them. It's not just the players getting into the team, but the whole squad showing the right attitude."

Graham Taylor appreciates that he is in for a heated reception when he returns to his former club, Wolves, with Watford. He returned to league management with the Molineux side after leaving the England coach's role in 1994 but, after just 18 months, he was hounded out by the fans.

"We saw when Wolves came to Vicarage Road earlier in the season how hyped up they were because of my connections with the club," Taylor said. "I also noticed that when I came to Watford with Wolves it was an important game for Wolves."

The current Molineux manager, Colin Lee, hopes to give a debut his new pounds 700,000 signing from Werder Bremen: the Norwegian international striker Haavard Flo.

Gerry Francis takes his Queen's Park Rangers side to Bury, while Port Vale play host to Swindon. Vale have allowed their French forward, Christophe Horlaville, to re- turn home and join Metz.

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