Buoyant Palace end Rotherham euphoria

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The Independent Online

Crystal Palace moved back into the Nationwide First Division play-off places when second-half goals by Clinton Morrison and Jamie Smith were enough to overcome Rotherham United at Selhurst Park and make it nine points out of nine in a week.

Rotherham's euphoria over their FA Cup defeat of Premiership Southampton in the delayed third-round tie in midweek clearly carried over into an evenly contested first half. But manager Trevor Francis pushed the Palace full-backs up in the second half and Morrison struck 10 minutes after the restart. Smith wrapped up the win with 11 minutes left.

"If we can stay fit I'm sure we can go on and have a chance at promotion," Francis said. "We are becoming more difficult to beat. All the team are certainly in good form."

Preston must hate the sight of Gillingham. Having won 5-0 at Priestfield on the first day of the season, the Gills completed the double with a 2-0 win at Deepdale. They were ahead just before the half-hour when Ty Gooden set up Simon Osborn. Paul Smith made it safe three minutes from the end. "I can't remember them having five chances," David Moyes, the Preston boss, moaned, "we had 98 per cent of all opportunities." And missed the lot.

An extraordinary Yorkshire derby at Oakwell between Barnsley and Bradford City ended 3-3. The visitors went ahead through Lee Sharpe but after an hour Barnsley looked completely in charge at 3-1, Mike Sheron having scored twice. Former Tyke Ashley Ward had other ideas, scoring two goals of his own in the last eight minutes to earn Bradford's point.

In the relegation scrap at Gresty Road, Geoff Thomas put Crewe ahead after nine minutes and Paul Groves, the Grimsby Town player-manager, handled to allow Shaun Smith to thump in a 27th-minute penalty. It ended 2-0. Crewe's first home win for three months opened up a five-point gap over Grimsby and they have two games in hand.

Solid defending and some fine saves by goalkeeper Darren Ward enabled Nottingham Forest to hold Sheffield United to a goalless draw at Bramall Lane. "It's a tough place to come," Paul Hart, the Forest manager, admitted. "They're very strong and direct, so it's a very good point."

In the Second Division, Nicky Forster scored a hat-trick as the leaders, Reading, beat Blackpool 3-0 at home to open up a four-point gap at the top. There was a hat-trick, too, for Brighton's Bobby Zamora, the prolific striker who interests Everton, in a thrilling 4-3 defeat of bottom-of-the-table Cambridge United at the Withdean Stadium.

But there were setbacks for Bristol City, beaten 3-1 at home by Northampton ­ two goals for Jamie Forrester and encouragement for John Fashanu, whose company is keen to acquire the Cobblers ­ and Stoke, who went down 1-0 at home to Queen's Park Rangers. Gavin Peacock scored a late goal to lift QPR into the play-off places.

There was also a surprise in the Third Division where the leaders, Plymouth, lost 3-1 to the 10 men of Shrewsbury Town at Gay Meadow. Trailing 1-0, Shrewsbury had Gary Rioch sent off after two bookings in the first 17 minutes but came back to shock Argyle.

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