Nationwide First Division defenders took the day off yesterday as the 12 matches produced an aggregate of 54 goals and neither side in the automatic promotion places managed a win.
The leaders, Norwich City, led 3-2 at half-time at Rotherham United, who had Guy Branston sent off following a tussle in the tunnel after Leon McKenzie was alleged to have spat at him. The Millers manager, Ronnie Moore, was also sent to the stands after a bad-tempered first half. "The referee came in to the dressing room and said he was sending off Branston for violent conduct then sent me to the stand," Moore said. "I asked for an explanation but he didn't give me one."
Undaunted, Rotherham's Martin Butler completed his hat-trick and John Mullin put them ahead until the Canaries' Damien Francis scored a late equaliser to earn Nigel Worthington's side a point from a 4-4 draw.
Ipswich Town also got off to a roaring start at Portman Road when Tommy Miller scored twice in the first nine minutes against Crewe. Another eight goals pinged in, Ipswich players netting eight of them, two in their own goal, and it ended 6-4 to Joe Royle's side. "If there was anybody who was uncommitted in the ground it must have been great for them," he said. "But in our last three home games we have conceded nine goals and it has got to be better."
Meanwhile, second-placed West Bromwich Albion had Rob Hulse sent off after 27 minutes for using an elbow on Burnley's Mark McGregor - "a typical striker's challenge and it upset me that he was sent off" was manager Gary Megson's view - and fell behind to Robert Blake's 14th goal of the season. But Geoff Horsfield's goal earned the 10 men a point from the 1-1 draw.
Life with Wigan Athletic could not have started much better for Jason Roberts, the striker signed from West Brom for £2m last week. He scored with his first touch, after 33 seconds, of his debut at Preston North End, flicking Gary Teale's cross past Jonathan Gould. "That goal was what we are all about, trying to play on the break, utilising our power and pace," Paul Jewell, the Latics manager, said.
Dickson Etuhu headed an equaliser, but on the stroke of half-time Nathan Ellington scored the first of his two goals to set the Latics on their way to a 4-2 win. Wigan move into the play-off places.
Coventry City, also scored six, against 10-man Walsall, and had the luxury of missing a penalty. It ended 6-1.
Of the three clubs in the relegation places, only Derby County won. Both on-loan full backs, Jamie Vincent, from Portsmouth, and Aston Villa's Rob Edwards scored for the Rams against Gillingham, who had John Hills and Ian Cox sent off in their 2-1 defeat at Pride Park.
Cardiff City's Gary Croft saw the red card in the 66th minute at Bradford City, but six minute's later Richard Langley's goal earned the Welsh side a 1-0 win. There were nine bookings a sending off and a 20-man ruckus as bottom side, Wimbledon, also lost 1-0 at home, to Stoke City.
Nottingham Forest are one point above the relegation zone and looked serious candidates for the drop after they lost 1-0 to Reading at the City Ground.Reuse content