Hart full of praise for virus-hit Forest

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The Nottingham Forest manager Paul Hart praised his side's battling qualities after a comfortable 3-0 First Division win at Burnley.

A mystery virus had threatened to rule several players out, but they battled through to produce a hard-earned victory.

Hart said: "For such a young side I thought we showed great character. Two or three players could easily have missed the game with a virus but they pulled through and we got the win we deserved."

Forest made a perfect start when Marlon Harewood swept the ball home after just seven minutes and wrapped up the points with late goals from man-of-the-match Andy Reid and former Claret Gareth Taylor.

Sunderland's run of four successive victories was brought to a juddering halt at the Britannia Stadium where Stoke ran out 3-1 winners.

The Black Cats, bidding for an immediate return to the top flight, had been reduced to 10 men following Sean Thornton's 74th-minute sending off.

But in truth they were dead and buried by half-time, with Kevin Kyle's second-half header proving a mere consolation after Gifton Noel-Williams and a Darel Russell brace had given City an unassailable lead.

Down at the bottom, Stuart Murdoch blamed referee Paul Durkin for Wimbledon slumping to a seventh straight defeat after a controversial penalty from Neil Harris sent Millwall on their way to a comfortable 2-0 win at the New Den.

Murdoch watched in horror, along with just 72 travelling fans, as Paul Ifill went down under the challenge of the Dons goalkeeper Steve Banks on the stroke of half-time with his players expecting Durkin to stop play so prone defender Mikele Leigertwood could receive treatment.

Durkin eventually gave a penalty instead under the guidance of his linesman, a decision which baffled Murdoch, who accused Ifill of diving. The Dons manager said: "I thought he was four paces past when he fell over. What constitutes a dive these days? If I'm being diplomatic I was very disappointed with the official's decision."

In the Second Division, none of yesterday morning's top three won. Leaders Port Vale slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Luton and Sheffield Wednesday fell at Bournemouth to a last-minute Wade Elliott goal, while Barnsley could only manage a 1-1 home draw with Oldham. Hartlepool, QPR and Swindon capitalised, with away wins at Stockport (2-1), Wrexham (2-0) and Grimsby (2-1) respectively moving them up into the thick of the chase.

The top three also slipped up in the Third Division, with Oxford and Hull held to draws at Cheltenham (0-0) and Leyton Orient (1-1) and Bristol Rovers losing 2-1 at Torquay. Swansea moved up to second with a 3-0 home win over Macclesfield, while Yeovil made ground with a 1-0 win at Doncaster.

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