Football: Thomas back with a bang


There will not be many returns as happy as that enjoyed by the Wolves midfielder Geoff Thomas. After a 20-month battle against injury, former England international Thomas returned to the Midlanders' starting line-up for the visit to his previous club, Crystal Palace, who were desperate to reduce Bolton's six-point lead in the First Division.

Terry Venables, the new Australian coach, will have been interested in the opening phase of the match as Steve Corica, a striker from Down Under, fired Wolves into a two-goal lead inside 14 minutes. Robbie Dennison's inch-perfect pass in the ninth minute set up the first and five minutes later Corica was left unmarked after Andy Thompson's long throw.

Dave Bassett's team talk sparked Palace who were level 10 minutes into the second half thanks to Carl Veart, another Australian striker, and Bruce Dyer. Six minutes later, Thomas leapt to head Wolves' third. Although George Ndah and Dougie Freedman both hit the woodwork, Mark McGhee's side held on for a sixth away win in nine games.

Barnsley moved up to third place by beating Portsmouth at Oakwell. Pompey also recovered from a 2-0 first-half deficit to level midway through the second period, only to concede a third and lose. Paul Wilkinson's angled shot and a low drive by John Hendrie put Barnsley, who had also seen a Neil Redfearn penalty saved, firmly in control.

A John Durnin penalty and Lee Bradbury's equaliser will have given Pompey's new chairman, that man Venables again, much satisfaction. Not so the incident six minutes from time when Steve Davis, also returning from injury, chested down a Portsmouth clearance and volleyed Barnsley's winner.

At the bottom, there were wins for Oldham, at home to play-off hopefuls Oxford, and Bradford, for whom Chris Waddle scored, at Charlton but Manchester City lost to Tranmere at Maine Road. QPR's pounds 2.5 investment in former Chelsea striker John Spencer appeared to have paid an immediate dividend when he gave them the lead at Reading but goals by Trevor Morley and Kurt Nogan gave Reading the points.

In the Second Division, the leaders Millwall drew while their London neighbours Brentford beat Wrexham to reclaim second spot. Bury moved up to third and Luton went fourth when Tony Thorpe's 90th-minute penalty defeated Bristol Rovers. Preston managed their first away win of the season, 1-0 at Wycombe, who had three players sent off.

Third Division Carlisle, who have offered an improbable groundshare with Brighton, won 3-1 on the South coast. Taunts and abuse forced Albion's chief executive David Bellotti to make his customary early exit. Will he ever hear the final whistle again?

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