Football Round-up: Fjortoft rises to the occasion

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The Independent Online
TWO minutes from time at the County Ground, Jan Age Fjortoft rose to head home Ty Gooden's cross, his ninth goal in Swindon Town's last seven games, and salvaged another point in the Robins' relegation fight at the foot of the Premiership. But the draw with a below par West Ham only emphasised the divergence in fortunes of the clubs since they both won promotion last season.

Town's plight scarcely needs embellishment and it looked like getting much worse when Trevor Morley scored in West Ham's first second-half attack after a clever Lee Chapman header found him unmarked eight yards out.

But the Hammers succumbed to a late equaliser against Manchester United last week, as Fjortoft clearly remembered. Billy Bonds, the West Ham manager, remembered too. 'We've let four points go in the last two games, which is very disappointing,' he said. 'It was one of our worst performances for ages. I was afraid it might be a case of after the Lord Mayor's show, following the Manchester United performance, and that's exactly how it turned out.'

Two of the sides Swindon and West Ham replaced in the top flight are emerging as the quality contenders in the congested Endsleigh First Division promotion race. Crystal Palace consolidated their pole position with a narrow victory at Portsmouth, who have won only once in the last 17 games. Eric Young's near-post header was the game's only goal and sent Palace seven points clear.

Nottingham Forest recovered from last week's surprise defeat at Oxford by beating Luton 2-0. The Hatters had goalkeeper Jurgen Sommer sent off. A hat-trick by the First Division's leading scorer, John McGinlay, sank second-placed Charlton in a five-goal thriller between FA Cup quarter-finalists at Bolton. McGinlay has now scored 24. Tranmere were surprisingly beaten at home by Grimsby, who had a player sent off and a goal disallowed, and who survived a missed John Aldridge penalty.

As any Manchester United fan will tell you, yesterday was not propitious for table-toppers. The leaders in the Second and Third Divisions were also beaten on home turf. A goal by Barry Hunter of Wrexham brought about Reading's second home defeat of the season in the Second. Third-placed Stockport's emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Hartlepool, which included a Kevin Francis hat-trick, was the most impressive result amongst Reading's pursuers.

In the Third, Crewe were beaten 2-1 by Walsall but only Wycombe of the chasing pack took full advantage when they won a tricky fixture against Bury through goals by Simon Garner and Dave Carroll.

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