Football: Sunderland closer to land of fulfilment

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The Independent Online
PETER REID is preparing for a party after his Sunderland side moved to within one win of the Premiership.

The runaway First Division leaders stretched their unbeaten League run to 12 matches with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town, thanks to first-half goals from Niall Quinn and Allan Johnston at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland now head to Bury tomorrow knowing that victory will seal a top-two finish and a delighted Reid said: "Some of the stuff we played was outstanding. This was similar to our last home game when we started brightly and it was only a matter of time before we went in front.

"There was no sign of any nerves from my players. They are just going out and producing performances like that.

The race for the second automatic promotion spot behind Sunderland is still fierce after Bradford City beat Portsmouth 2-1, with their leading scorer Lee Mills and Lee Sharpe on target. City's manager, Paul Jewell, is worried, though, that the pressure is getting to his players.

Jewell admitted: "I sense the players are jittery. They were jittery against Grimsby last Saturday and we were a bit edgy again here. But you cannot ask for more than three victories in eight days with eight goals for and only one against."

Birmingham City are fourth after a goal from Gary Rowett kept their play- off push on track with a 1-0 win at Swindon Town.Bolton are on the verge of throwing away a play-off place, though, after they lost 2-0 at Watford, who are just one point behind Colin Todd's men.

Todd, whose team have won only once in the last 10 matches, admitted: "It's down to character now and it's down to our experienced professionals to show that character can help us through. It's very disappointing to lose by two goals to Watford, who have now moved closer to us, and frankly we could have conceded a load more goals as well."

Wolves are still fifth after a goalless draw with Crystal Palace, who continue to perform well despite their well-publicised off-the-field problems.

Bury moved out of the bottom three with their first away win of the season, and their first victory in 1999, as Derek Lilley fired them to a 1-0 win at Oxford United.

Bristol City gained their third win in a row, defeating Grimsby 4-1, to move off the foot of the table and within two points of safety. Crewe slipped back to bottom place after drawing 0-0 at home to Port Vale, who are also in the relegation zone after Bury's win.

In the Second Division, Kevin Keegan's Fulham are two points away from promotion after beating Wigan 2-0, while Manchester City are still in with a chance of finishing second after they won 4-0 against Lincoln - Paul Dickov scoring a hat-trick - while Walsall and Preston lost.