Football: Round-up - Nightingale clears small debt

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A DEGREE in economics or, at the very least, a firm grasp of accountancy is not mandatory for the Nineties football fan but it can certainly come in handy. Take Portsmouth. Facing the receivers, a High Court winding- up order and Queen's Park Rangers - you may make your own judgement as to which is the least fearsome - it was a relief for their fans to set aside the calculators and concentrate on a game of football.

They saw Pompey claim a point when Luke Nightingale levelled the scores at 1-1. Then it was back to the moneymen. "Myself and Mr Brady, the chairman, have been actively pursuing all of our football contacts," their manager, Alan Ball, said. "I'm very optimistic that we have found someone. It won't happen before Monday, but I'm confident that something will happen soon." Ball has also been "in a cocoon with my players. We are not going to let it affect us; we've got to win games. We're not the best in the world but we have the character to match anyone. But come Monday morning there's nothing more we can do."

All of the Crystal Palace players are available for transfer but they failed to make use of the shop window at Tranmere Rovers where they lost 3-1. By contrast, Oxford United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, two of the division's other cash-strapped clubs, pulled off notable wins.

Oxford famously came off the critical list with the income from last week's FA Cup 1-1 draw with Chelsea and Dean Windass, who scored against the Blues, was on target with the only goal of the home game against Barnsley.

Wolves, looking at a pounds 2m loss this year to add to losses of pounds 23.4m since 1993, won 2-1 at Stockport County, Dean Richards and Carl Robinson making their case for retention in the club's expected summer clear-out.

Bolton Wanderers' campaign to keep their stay in the Nationwide First Division to the absolute minimum continued with a 2-0 defeat of Norwich City at the Reebok Stadium, their 12th game unbeaten. "An excellent performance," Colin Todd, their satisfied manager, said. "I am pleased with the way we are taking the game to the opposition."

The Grimsby Town manager, Alan Buckley, returned to West Bromwich Albion, who sacked him two years ago, and saw the Mariners take the lead in the 28th minute when Kingsley Black fired in. But Albion's prolific striker Lee Hughes, scored his 28th goal of the season to make a point from a 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere, Marcelo's rich vein of scoring form which saw Sheffield United through two rounds of the FA Cup last week continued as the Blades won 2-1 at Crewe. The Brazilian striker equalised Rodney Jack's fifth-minute strike but bottom-of-the-table Crewe were dismayed by Paul Devlin's injury- time winner.

Bury, who have not won an away league game all season, will not come closer. Adrian Littlejohn put them ahead at Swindon Town in the 68th minute but a Dean West own goal four minutes from time foiled Neil Warnock's side. "Just one of those things," he philosophised.

There were easy wins for the leaders of the lower divisions. Fulham, atop the Second, beat Northampton Town 2-0 at Craven Cottage, pounds 2m Barry Hayles and Philippe Albert, on loan from Newcastle, on target, while the Third Division leaders, Cardiff City, thrashed Brentford 4-1 at Ninian Park.

Finally, Doncaster Rovers moved further from the foot of the Conference thanks to a 1-0 win at top-of-the-table Kettering following last week's 3-1 win at the promotion favourites Rushden & Diamonds, who took Leeds United to a replay in the FA Cup. The former Burnley striker Ian Duerden, who scored twice at Rushden, scored the goal.