FOOTBALL: ROUND-UP - Vale drawn over a possible victory

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IN MIDWEEK a home defeat by Port Vale persuaded Adrian Heath to resign as manager of Sheffield United. It is unlikely that Alan Curbishley will quit First Division Charlton Athletic just yet but he will want to know why his side gave away a two-goal first-half lead within 10 minutes of the restart and were unable to turn copious possession into a winning goal as Vale clung on for a point, albeit with frequent assists from the woodwork.

It had looked all so different in the first period as the Charlton striker Clive Mendonca scored twice, taking his season's tally to nine. But Tony Rougier struck immediately at the start of the second half and Martin Foyle equalised in the 55th minute. Charlton won a point but fell one place to third.

Ipswich Town's David Johnson also scored twice as the East Anglians moved up to fourth with a 2-1 home win over Crewe. Ipswich went ahead in the fourth minute when Johnson chested down Mike Stockwell's pass and beat Jason Kearton. Mark Rivers latched on to a long pass to level scores in the 75th minute but almost immediately Johnson scored his 12th of the season to seal the win.

Like Curbishley, Trevor Francis, the Birmingham City manager, will want to know why his side threw away two points. Playing bottom side Swindon, they led from the 26th minute when Dele Adebola and Allan Johnston, on the right, set up Martin Grainger's header. And so it stayed until Iffy Onuora's injury-time equaliser.

Sheffield United's caretaker manager, Russell Slade, saw his side twice take the lead at West Bromwich Albion but had to be content with a 2-2 draw and Tony Parkes, so often in custody of Blackburn Rovers' team affairs he'd earn a good living with Securicor, made it five games unbeaten following their 2-0 defeat of Stockport County. The former Rovers managers Kenny Dalglish and Ray Harford were sitting together in the Ewood Park directors box, in town for a social function, apparently.

Improving Crystal Palace dominated first-half play against Nottingham Forest and eventually broke through after a frantic goalmouth scramble, the ball hitting the woodwork twice before Leon McKenzie headed in. Mathias Svensson made it 2-0, and so it finished.

Despite losing Graham Allen, sent off in the 35th minute for a professional foul, Tranmere Rovers still had enough to beat Wolves 1-0 at Prenton Park. Wayne Allison got the vital goal five minutes into the second half.

In the Second Division, Preston North End won 3-1 at Bury to keep pace with leaders Wigan, while Notts County, beaten at home in midweek by Oxford, battled out a see-sawing 4-4 draw with Bristol City, whose Peter Beadle scored for both sides. Their Moldovan, Ivan Tistimetanu, grabbed his first goal in England.

The sale of their highly-rated striker Robert Taylor to Manchester City did not much inconvenience Gillingham. Andy Hessenthaler scored after 16 seconds at Cardiff City, who then equalised, had Russell Pennett sent off and lost the game as Adrian Pennock struck the winner to lift the Gills to third. Bristol Rovers are fourth after a comfortable 3-0 win over Luton.

In the Third Division, the top two met at London Road. Barnet's Marlon King scored twice after Peterborough United had taken the lead. Barnet are top; Posh dropped to third. Rotherham United moved up a place to second following a 1-0 win at Carlisle United, Paul Hurst scoring in injury time. Darlington are fourth having beaten Southend United 2-1 at Roots Hall.

In Scotland this afternoon, Celtic take on fourth-placed Motherwell at Fir Park with their head coach, John Barnes, determined to avenge the 1-0 defeat at Parkhead earlier in the season. "It's going to be a difficult match. Every time I've seen them play they've played well and dominated most of the games," Barnes said.