Football: Wanderers keep up early pace

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The Independent Online
THE THREE sides relegated from the Premiership were expected to be among the First Division front-runners this season, but only the unbeaten Bolton Wanderers have given early indication of their determination to return quickly to the top flight. A confident 3-1 win over the former leaders Birmingham City at the Reebok Stadium lifted Wanderers to sixth place, four points behind the leaders but already with games in hand.

Second-placed Birmingham were caught cold three times, getting off to the worst possible start when Bob Taylor, after 20 seconds, and Per Frandsen, with a 35-yard shot, put the hosts 2-0 up after only only five minutes.

Gary Rowett pulled one back five minutes before the break. But Taylor, in the side only because of injury to Dean Holdsworth and Nathan Blake, grabbed the second, four minutes into the second half, to quash Brum's revival.

"I decided to switch from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2 after a meeting with the players," Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, said, "and it worked out surprisingly well... Although our passing was not as good as I would have liked." They're never satisfied, are they?

Barnsley and Crystal Palace, who accompanied Bolton down, have been faring less heartily. But the Tykes took all three points from from Grimsby Town thanks to two Ashley Ward goals in the 2-1 win. Palace, however, lost 1-0 to lowly Port Vale at Selhurst Park. Peter Beadle scored with seven minutes left to give Vale their second win in a week.

"We were second to everything today," Terry Venables, the Palace manager, said. "We made chances but didn't take them but then I didn't think Port Vale would score."

Watford brought their run of three consecutive defeats to a halt with a 2-1 win over Queen's Park Rangers. Keith Millen deflected Micah Hyde's shot to wrong-foot Lee Harper, the Rangers goalkeeper. Disaster loomed when Steve Slade equalised with 17 minutes remaining but Allan Smart made the points safe five minutes from time. "This will do the lads' confidence a lot of good having taken the lead, then being pegged back before going on to win," Graham Taylor, the Watford manager, decided.

There were goals aplenty at Portsmouth who hit Swindon Town for five, John Aloisi and Sammy Igoe both scoring twice. "I thought the whole team from the keeper to the strikers played badly," Steve McMahon, Swindon's manager, moaned. "There's nothing positive to take from a display like that."

In the Second Division, Stoke City got back to winning ways beating Millwall 1-0 while Darlington top the Third after a 2-1 win at Plymouth.

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