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Football: Nationwide League - Burley keeps pressure at bay

THE TENSION is beginning to grip as Ipswich Town and Bradford City set their sights on the second automatic promotion place behind the First Division champions, Sunderland.

Both clubs lost their nerve when they were beaten last Saturday, but the Portman Road club gained a three-point advantage on the men from Valley Parade when they beat Stockport County 1-0 at home in midweek.

Even so, the Ipswich manager, George Burley, is ready for the season to go to the wire as he prepares his side for the visit of the bottom club, Crewe Alexandra, today. "It is still very tight," he warned. "With only three games left, there is bound to be tension in the team, but it is nice to be in this position having to deal with that tension and pressure."

The atmosphere is just as tense at the foot of the table, where Crewe have kept battling to stay afloat. However, even their ever-optimistic manager, Dario Gradi, admits that defeat in Suffolk today could see his side surrender their First Division status.

"If we win on Saturday, we can maybe afford to lose one more game but if Ipswich beat us then we will have to win our last three," Gradi said. "I haven't found any tension in the team yet. We all know what we've got to do."

The Bradford manager, Paul Jewell, is determined that the defensive errors which allowed Huddersfield to win 3-2 at Valley Parade last week will not be in evidence at Queen's Park Rangers today.

"We've spent all week working on defending from the front, through the midfield and to the back four," Jewell said. "That was what we were doing earlier in the season and maybe we had got out of that habit - hopefully that will solve the problem at QPR and we can take all three points to keep the pressure on Ipswich."

The champions, Sunderland, will end Sheffield United's slim play-off hopes with a home victory today. Sunderland's Stadium of Light will be included in England's bid to host the 2006 World Cup finals. The club confirmed yesterday that they have been informed the 42,000-capacity stadium will be among 15 included in the "A list" for the bid document.

Brentford, who are chasing promotion from the Third Division, have been rebuffed in their attempt to share Loftus Road with both Queen's Park Rangers and Wasps rugby club next season. The Bees have long-term plans to sell their Griffin Park home to property developers and build a new multi-sports stadium at Heston, near Heathrow airport, but now seem set to stay at their current ground for a while longer.

Carlisle United have been granted special dispensation by the Football League to sign the Swindon Town goalkeeper Jimmy Glass on loan, despite the transfer deadline having passed a month ago. Derby County have recalled Richard Knight from his loan spell, leaving Carlisle without a senior goalkeeper as they seek to stave off relegation from the Third Division.