Football round-up: Dark clouds gather over Everton

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PLENTY of blue skies yesterday and they were smiling on Sheffield United and Southampton as the battle to avoid relegation from the Premiership turned hotter than the day itself.

The cutting edge that striker Nathan Blake has brought to the Blades helped the seasoned escapologists achieve the day's most impressive win, 2-0 against Uefa Cup hopefuls Newcastle United. Blake scored twice, making it five goals in five starts. 'He was strong and positive, and took his goals well. He has bags of potential,' his manager Dave Bassett said. 'Oldham on Tuesday night is our cup final and we must go for maximum points.'

The Saints welcomed Matthew Le Tissier, suspended last week, back for Aston Villa's visit and won 4-1. He scored two and made two. 'The genius was a bit special again,' the Southampton manager Alan Ball said. 'There's a big light at the end of the tunnel now and we have to go for it.' 'It' turns out to be Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

All of which leaves Everton in deep trouble. They succumbed to three second-half goals at Leeds and now occupy the third relegation spot with one match remaining. 'It is out of our hands now but I don't want to look at it that way,' manager Mike Walker said. 'I intend to remain positive.'

Everton's last match is against Wimbledon who ensured Ossie Ardiles's problems continued by beating Spurs 2-1. 'It's the old Nottingham Forest syndrome - 'we are too good to go down',' Wimbledon's Vinny Jones said. 'But at a quarter to five next Saturday someone will need a large quantity of toilet paper.'

Manchester City would be well-placed in view of their chairman's past business interests but they may not need his knowledge of paper products after their 2-2 draw with FA Cup finalists Chelsea. Oldham drew 0-0 with Sheffield Wednesday and now face three crucial games in the next seven days. 'That wasn't a bad result,' Joe Royle, Athletic's optimistic manager, said. 'Now we need to win two of our three remaining games to stay up.'

An afternoon of high emotion at Anfield where the Kop is now to be demolished and replaced by an all-seater stand. A game of football also took place but Liverpool, who may need as much rebuilding as their ground, did not bid the Kop adieu with echoes of a previous era. They lost to Norwich. 'We have been the party poopers,' Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, admitted.

Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest confirmed promotion the hard way coming from 2-0 behind at relegated Peterborough to win 3-2, Stan Collymore's winner coming two minutes from time. Reading's 2-0 win over Brighton won the Second Division championship; Exeter left the division by the opposite route.

The Premiership title will be settled tomorrow if Manchester United beat Ipswich at Portman Road this afternoon and Blackburn, whose striker Alan Shearer was yesterday named the Football Writers' Player of the Year, fail to win at Coventry 28 hours later.