Football Round-Up: Gray enlivens a grey day at Roker Park

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The Independent Online
DESPITE the filthy conditions, nearly 20,000 supporters filed into Roker Park for yesterday's important match against Barnsley, who, like Sunderland, are toiling in the First Division. Their loyalty was rewarded by Phil Gray's fifth goal in seven games to give the Rokermen the slimmest of victories, writes Henry Winter.

The Northern Ireland striker, once at Oakwell on loan, delighted the majority of the crowd in the 35th minute with a fine show of skill, his chip crossing the line before Gary Fleming's futile headed clearance.

Middlesbrough, who share Sunderland's capacity for huge gates and embarrassment at Newcastle's success elsewhere in the North-east, matched the Rokermen's feat, beating Grimsby at Ayresome Park. Paul Wilkinson, a Mariner for three seasons, proved the difference between the two sides, settling matters with a first-half header - his ninth goal of the season.

Southend United's promotion aspirations were not assisted by Jim Rushton. The Stoke referee allowed three minutes of injury time at Meadow Lane, during which Notts County scored the winner in a 2-1 victory. After Keith Jones, the Blues captain, and County's Mark Draper had swapped long-range goals, Southend dominated - as a 22-corner tally indicates. But Peter Taylor's attractive side were denied a deserved point deep into time added on when the Dutchman, Meindert Dijkstra, opened his County account.

Birmingham, the team Southend humiliated on Saturday, managed a point yesterday, following their 3-1 Roots Hall defeat with a 1-1 draw at home to struggling Oxford United. Louie Donowa had not played for two months but came off the bench to match Alex Dyer's earlier goal.

Events in the Second Division extended Reading's edge. The Royals' lead is now six points after a Jimmy Quinn double ensured a 2-1 home win over York City while their closest pursuers were held to

1-1 draws - Stockport at Brentford and Plymouth to Brighton before a Home Park crowd of 15,334.

Crewe Alexandra, the runaway Third Division leaders, needed a 73rd-minute equaliser from Tony Naylor to draw 2-2 at the League's bottom club, Northampton Town.

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