Football: Rampaging Robinson

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WITH the top two in the Nationwide First Division slipping up against East Anglian opposition, the clutch of clubs battling it out for play-off places could once again harbour dreams of automatic promotion. None more so than Charlton Athletic, who won 2-1 at Oxford United.

When the Londoners trailed to Nigel Jemson's sixth-minute goal it looked as though their poor away form would remain intact, but they scored twice in the final 10 minutes. First, Clive Mendonca crashed a shot against the Oxford bar, it bounced down, hit the goalkeeper Phil Whitehead on the back of the head and cannoned into the net for one of the more fortuitous among the striker's 16 goals this season.

John Robinson won the points when the substitute Matt Holmes crossed deep from the left and Robinson met it at the far post to lift the Robins to within four points of the leaders, Nottingham Forest.

Robinson, his manager, Alan Curbishley, said, "won it for us when I changed things round and put him on the right. It's his natural position and he took the game by the scruff of the neck".

Meanwhile, Forest had been beaten 1-0 at Norwich. Adrian Forbes crossed from the left for Iwan Roberts to force the ball in from close range. "It was a stupid defeat from our point of view," Dave Bassett, the Forest manager, said. "There were points there to be had but you don't get points just for dominating games. It was down to our poor finishing and one or two excellent saves from Bryan Gunn."

Middlesbrough's manager, Bryan Robson, accused the Ipswich striker David Johnson of diving to get the Boro centre-back, Gianluca Festa, sent off at the Riverside Stadium as the sides drew 1-1.

After watching a video of the 17th-minute incident, Robson said, "Festa never touched Johnson - he took a dive. That's twice this season Ipswich have taken points off us because of referees. Craig Harrison was sent off at Ipswich when he had done nothing wrong and it's happened again today. It's disappointing when you don't win at home but the referee cost us the game today."

Nigel Pearson gave Boro the lead after 63 minutes but 14 minutes later Ipswich equalised through, to add insult, Johnson.

At Bramall Lane, Sheffield United fans recovered from the shock of the club selling two strikers - Jan Age Fjortoft and Brian Deane to Barnsley and Benfica respectively - when the Blades ended Wolves' five-match unbeaten run in the league when Marcello, playing his first match for almost two months, collected Dean Saunders' centre and slipped it past the advancing Mike Stowell.

The Blades' manager, Nigel Spackman, said that selling two strikers was obviously a problem. "But it's happened and we have to get on with things. Hopefully, today's performance shows we still have the ambition to get into the Premiership. The players have it, the supporters have it and I have it." The eagle-eyed will note that he did not include the club's board of directors.

At the bottom, Port Vale increased Portsmouth's problems with a 2-1 win at Vale Park - "I told the players at half-time they had to go out and fight for their lives," John Rudge, the Vale manager said. "I couldn't be more relieved with a victory."