Football: Wright left to ponder flawed debut

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The Independent Online
NOTHING IN football is certain. Well, almost nothing. What can be predicted is that Ian Wright will score you a goal on his debut. And thus it was that, in the 29th minute of his loan spell from West Ham to Nottingham Forest of the Nationwide First Division, he latched on to Dougie Freedman's pass and clipped the ball over Ludek Miklosko in the Queen's Park Rangers goal to give Forest a 1-0 lead at the City Ground.

The striker, however, is not perfect. On the stroke of half-time, the Rangers defender Jermaine Darlington was sent off for handball and Wright thumped the resulting penalty against a post. It proved a costly miss when Karl Ready equalised in the second half to earn Rangers a point.

Other strikers were not about to be overshadowed. Barnsley's Robbie van der Laan and Matt Appleby both scored twice as the Tykes beat Portsmouth 6-0 at Oakwell. Pompey's Andy Awford (22 minutes) and Fitzroy Simpson (34) had been sent off when the score was goalless.

"I don't talk about farces," Alan Ball, Portsmouth's manager and a confirmed tragedian, said as he bypassed the post-match press conference. "We did our job professionally," Dave Bassett, Barnsley boss and real trouper, said.

Crystal Palace had no one sent off and were thrashed 7-1 at Huddersfield Town, Clyde Wijnhard scoring a hat-trick.

The division's strugglers, Sheffield United, entertained the leaders, Ipswich Town, who sped into a 2-0 lead in 11 minutes. But with Petr Katchuro on as a second-half substitute, the Blades rallied and goals by Martin Smith and Marcelo earned a point.

Brian Kidd, the Blackburn Rovers manager, opted to blast his way out of trouble and chose a three-pronged attack - Egil Ostenstadt, Ashley Ward and Matt Jansen - for the visit to Norwich City. Ostenstadt goals in the 6th and 51st minutes repaid his decision. Jack Walker, Rovers' owner, had been irked by the team's poor start. "If he gets rid of me the person who comes in will have a decent set of players to work with, I am convinced of that," Kidd said defiantly.

Wolves, given a four-goal thumping by Second Division Wycombe in the Worthington Cup in midweek, lost 2-1 in the Midlands derby with Walsall at Molineux. The fans were not best pleased and 250 gathered outside the ground chanting for the removal of managing director, John Richards, adding taunts of "Where's the money gone?" referring to the pounds 6m sale of Robbie Keane to Coventry.

Swindon Town, knocked out of the Cup by Third Division Leyton Orient, who had not managed a League win until yesterday's 1-0 defeat of Halifax, lost again, 2-1 to West Brom. Swindon also had their goalscorer, Mark Walters, sent off. "The first half was the best we've played all season so far," Jimmy Quinn, the baffled Robins manager, said. "I was delighted. In the second half we stopped, gave the game away. I can't understand it."

Port Vale, losing pounds 20,000 a week, have offered a well-heeled fan, the pop singer Robbie Williams, a seat on their board. Their 1-0 win over Tranmere Rovers might have encouraged acceptance. Tranmere had Clint Hill sent off by the referee, David Crick. "I will be writing to the FA to complain about [the official's] performance," John Aldridge, the indignant Rovers boss, vowed.

In the Second Division, Stuart Barlow scored three as Wigan Athletic went top following their 4-1 win at Deepdale where Preston North End scored first, but had David Lucas sent off when the scores were level. At the bottom, Oldham Athletic, beaten 1-0 at Oxford United, have yet to earn a point or even score a goal.

The defensive coaches of Third Division Barnet and York have some work to do. Their sides shared nine goals in north London. Barnet had rather the better, winning 6-3 with over half the team scoring.