Football Round-up

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The Independent Online

By Geoff Brown

WE HAVE heard this before but Mark McGhee, the Wolves manager, thinks his side can squeeze into the First Division play-offs, and after yesterday's 1-0 win at Millwall who knows? Two defeats in 11 matches is reasonable form in anyone's book. More importantly, "My players have started to believe they are in with a chance," McGhee said.

A 69th-minute Steve Bull goal, outstanding goalkeeping by Mike Stowell and poor Millwall finishing were behind Wolves' win. To cap it for the Lions, three minutes from the end a frustrated Sergei Yuran launched himself two-footed at Andy Thompson, missed, but pushed over the protesting Eric Young and was sent off.

"It seems to be ingrained in the Russian's mentality to appeal for everything," his manager Jimmy Nicholl said. "I've no sympathy for him." What he does have for him is a substantial fine.

More likely to reach the play-offs are Stoke City, who beat Barnsley 2-0 to move into fourth place, two points behind second-placed Sunderland, who play at Grimsby today. Charlton missed the chance to go above the Wearsiders when they lost 2-1 at Portsmouth after taking the lead through a Guy Butters own goal. Deon Burton scored a minute before half-time and again 12 minutes into the second period.

The confusing comings and goings at St Andrews have finally caught up with the players. Barry Fry plunged Paul Devlin and Andy Legg, last week's buys, into Birmingham's starting line-up for the visit of Sheffield United. But the Blades won 1-0 and striker Andy Walker began paying off his pounds 500,000 fee from Celtic. And a small ripple of applause for bottom club Watford who picked up their first point since Graham Taylor's return with a goalless draw at Reading.

In the Second Division, Rob Edwards scored a hat-trick as Crewe won 3- 2 at Wrexham to keep pressure on Swindon and Blackpool, who also won but the Third Division's top two, Gillingham and Preston, both lost. Lincoln had two dozen pairs of football boots stolen from Sincil Bank on Friday night but Gareth Ainsworth found his feet twice to beat Fulham.

Stevenage Borough, chasing a non-league double of GM Vauxhall Conference, which they lead, just, with games in hand, and FA Trophy, yesterday had a taste of a less appealing side of success. They were leading Kettering 1-0 in a Trophy third-round tie at their Broadhall Way ground when the visitors' midfielder Rob Haworth, booked twice in two minutes for kicking the ball away at a free-kick and a trip, was sent off on 33 minutes.

Fighting broke out almost immediately between rival fans and referee Phillip Joslin took the players off for 19 minutes while police restored order. Boro's Barry Hayles then scored twice to secure the win.