Football Round Up: Holland takes early toll of slack Oxford

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The Independent Online
IPSWICH TOWN kept their promotion hopes intact with a 2-1 defeat of Oxford United at Portman Road, but it was much thanks to the visitors' wholehearted embrace of part-time working, the latest fashion in football. Or perhaps the Oxford defence had been genetically modified for they were 2-0 down in eight minutes and it could have been 5-0 by the half-hour.

"We had a smashing start and I was very pleased we created so many chances," George Burley, the Town manager, said "but disappointed that we didn't score a few more goals."

Matthew Holland grabbed the first after six minutes when Marlon Harewood nodded on Jamie Clapham's corner and Holland drove in right-footed. Two minutes later David Johnson, clean through, was felled by Brian Wilsterman, who was lucky not to be sent off. Mark Venus converted the penalty.

Oxford eventually tightened up and were rewarded when Christophe Remy scored two minutes before the break. Ipswich join second-placed Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers on 58 points.

Watford's 2-1 win at Queen's Park Rangers kept them up with the play- off pace. The Hornets substitute, Tommy Smith, scored the 70th-minute winner with his first touch. Rangers continue to slip back.

There were delays at West Bromwich Albion, who drew 2-2 with Bristol City, and Swindon Town, where Portsmouth's Steve Claridge scored twice as Pompey grabbed a valuable point from a 3-3 draw.

The hiatus at Swindon was caused by serious face, head and neck injuries to the visitors' goalkeeper, Aaron Flahavan, after a clash of heads with the Town striker Iffy Onuora. "I'd rather not comment at this stage," Alan Ball, Pompey's manager, said of the challenge. "Let's just say a few of my players aren't too happy about it. It's a nasty injury, Aaron is in a bad way. We have to wait to see the extent of his injuries."

The central defender Russell Perrett went in goal, Swindon went 2-0 up, and later led 3-1 but goals by Claridge and Jeff Peron made Pompey's point.

At The Hawthorns, fighting broke out during half-time between West Brom and Bristol fans and the second-half start was delayed by 15 minutes. Lee Hughes' 29th goal of the season had given West Brom the lead but two second-half strikes by Ade Akinbiyi put the strugglers ahead. Until the 90th minute when that chap Hughes made it 30 and 2-2.

The referee Peter Walton "waited for [Albion] to score and then stopped the game," Benny Lennartsson, the angered Bristol manager, said. "It was a disgrace. I don't know how much we can cope with these injustices... we were robbed and I don't like that."

The pounds 200,000 midfielder Darren Bullock, signed by Bury to help in their relegation fight, lasted 11 minutes of his debut against Norwich City at Gigg Lane before being sent off for violent conduct when kicked the prone Peter Grant.

"Looking at it on video, I felt it was very harsh," Neil Warnock, the Bury boss, said. "Bullock couldn't get out of the way." The Canaries won 2-0, their first victory of 1999.

"I didn't think we deserved to lose and I didn't think it should have been a corner that led to their second goal, either," Warnock said. So there.