Football: Todd relishes the challenge

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COLIN TODD believes Bolton's top-flight experience will give them a vital edge when they visit the First Division leaders Sunderland today.

Wanderers' promotion push has stuttered in recent weeks, with the Reebok Stadium club six points behind second-placed Ipswich after a poor run of results. However, Todd, the Bolton manager, is remaining upbeat and is confident his side will thrive at a packed Stadium of Light.

"This game will be something special for us," he said. "We're playing against the champions-elect in front of 40,000 people. It will be like last season when we were playing in the Premiership. I'm sure the players will relish the occasion and go for the right result."

The Ipswich manager, George Burley, whose men visit West Bromwich today, believes the East Anglians can stay clear of the chasing pack. "There are four teams all chasing one automatic promotion spot [behind Sunderland] and it's very tight because everyone is capable of taking that place," he said. "We're enjoying winning games at the moment, we're up into second place and that's where we want to stay. We have been up there in the last couple of seasons and hopefully we can hold on this year."

The Birmingham manager Trevor Francis, whose side go to Huddersfield having won their last three matches, said: "I'm very pleased with the current form and I'm obviously delighted with the fact that we're playing well and picking up points. The players are very positive and we're looking to go up there and as play as we have been recently."

At the bottom end of the table, there is a relegation scrap between Crewe, who climbed off the foot of the table in midweek, and Oxford United at Gresty Road.

The Alex manager, Dario Gradi, said: "It's a good one not to lose but it will be a super one to win. There are still a lot of games to play, and we're certainly not going to get rash and throw caution to the wind with 15 minutes to go. If we do that, we could end up losing games that we could have drawn."