Football: Saxton: No rest for the leaders

NATIONWIDE FOOTBALL
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The Independent Online
SUNDERLAND ENTER today's home game with Huddersfield knowing that a win would achieve a record sequence of 12 successive home League victories, and bring them within one point of being mathematically certain of Premiership football next season.

Despite that, their assistant manager, Bobby Saxton, is refusing to let his players rest on their laurels. "We've come on strong in the last few games and the message is we must keep it going for the rest of the season," he said. "It's no good pulling the stumps up with six games to go; we have to do it all the way."

At Valley Parade third-placed Bradford City need a win over Portsmouth to move above Ipswich, who visit their East Anglian rivals Norwich tomorrow. The Bantams' assistant manager, Chris Hutchings, said: "We had two good wins over Easter but we know that it will count for nothing if we don't maintain our form until the end of the season."

Wolves are again without Robbie Keane, who is with the Republic of Ireland's Under-20 team in Nigeria, for the home game with Crystal Palace but their assistant manager John Ward is delighted with how the players have responded to the loss of the young striker. "We've won two and drawn one of our last three games," Ward said. "The way everyone has rallied and responded to our top scorer leaving has been first class."

Bolton visit Watford in a match vital to the play-off hopes of both teams, with the Wanderers' manager, Colin Todd, urging his side to step up their work rate after slipping from second to sixth place in recent months. "We know we've hit a bit of a brick wall at the moment... but I want 10 to 15 per cent extra effort from my players."

At the other end of the table, the Crewe manager, Dario Gradi, is hoping his side can build on their 5-1 demolition of West Bromwich on Monday and move out of the bottom three by beating Port Vale at home. "Port Vale will be much more defensive and it will be harder for us to score goals," Gradi warned. "The West Brom midfield was attacking rather than defending; I don't think Vale's midfield will be like that."

The bottom club, Bristol City, have a crucial home match with Grimsby and their coach, Benny Lennartsson, is confident his side can beat the drop. Victories against Port Vale and Portsmouth have given City new hope and Lennartsson said: "This is the biggest game of our season and the great escape is still possible. "We've all been working hard and the mood of the team is still good."

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