Albion stall on Crewe grit

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West Bromwich Albion missed the chance to go second in the Nationwide First Division when a firm left-foot drive by the former England midfielder Geoff Thomas from just outside the box earned Crewe Alexandra a 1-1 draw at Gresty Road.

The Midlanders had gone ahead in the 28th minute with a textbook route one goal. A long ball forward to the head of Danny Dichio and a flick-on landed conveniently for Jordão to score with an accurate chip.

But Crewe fought back and equalised three minutes later with Thomas' blast from the past. "I'm angry we took the lead and then conceded so soon afterwards," Gary Megson, the Albion manager, fumed. "I thought we'd got that out of our make-up."

Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager, was a touch more upbeat. "In previous years we would have lost that game playing as badly as that – our passing was very poor – but at least this time we looked as if we knew how not to lose it. Geoff Thomas saved us – it was a great shot."

David Moyes, one of at least a dozen candidates currently being touted as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Old Trafford, will slip down the pecking order if his Preston North End side repeat yesterday's performance at Rotherham United. They lost 1-0 when they were caught cold the third minute. Martin McIntosh, in his 300th league appearance, reacted quickest to a clearance from a corner and thumped in the ball.

Rotherham twice hit the woodwork in the first half and then in the second defended resolutely as Preston fruitlessly powered forward.

Walsall moved out of the bottom three and did their goal difference a bit of good when they beat fellow strugglers Grimsby Town 4-0 at the Bescot Stadium. Brett Angell was their star. "An excellent professional," his manager Ray Graydon enthused. "He is not a fantastic player but he is a goalscorer, and today he got three assists as well."

But for Lennie Lawrence, the Mariners boss, it was "my lowest point in the time I have been here. We are stretched in terms of players but never-theless we should have been better than that".

Sheffield Wednesday slipped back towards the danger zone when they lost 2-1 at Gillingham. Paul Shaw put the Gills ahead in the 20th minute but 60 seconds later the Owls' Belgian striker Gerald Sibon was felled and equalised from the penalty spot. Simon Osborn scored Gillingham's winner. The Wednesday striker, Efan Ekoku, missed four clear first-half chances. "We had enough opportunities to have got a draw or even with the game," his disappointed manager, Terry Yorath, said.

In the Second Division, Stoke City went top thanks to a 5-1 thumping of Wycombe. Brynjar Gunnarsson scored twice for the Potters and Wycombe's Paul Emblen was sent off when the score was 2-1. Brentford ended a run of three defeats by beating Wrexham 3-0 at Griffin Park.

John Hollins, sacked by Swansea City earlier in the season, had a less than happy start to his new job as Third Division Rochdale's manager. They lost 1-0 to Southend United at Spotland, their first home league defeat of the season. Stephen Broad scored Southend's goal and the Essex side had goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan sent off nine minutes from time. David Friio scored the only goal of the game for the leaders, Plymouth Argyle, against Darlington at Home Park, to open up a six-point gap at the top.