Late winner puts Stoke top as Shipperley lands one for Eagles

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The Independent Football

While the relegated Premiership clubs expected to prosper in the First Division struggle with decimated squads and the more physical challenge of their opponents, sides who've been tempered in the Nationwide fires are setting the early pace with Crystal Palace and Stoke City celebrating 100 per cent records after two games.

While the relegated Premiership clubs expected to prosper in the First Division struggle with decimated squads and the more physical challenge of their opponents, sides who've been tempered in the Nationwide fires are setting the early pace with Crystal Palace and Stoke City celebrating 100 per cent records after two games.

The Palace goal against Watford at Selhurst Park, which earned a 1-0 win and kept their record intact, was headed in by the former Wimbledon striker Neil Shipperley, making his second debut for the Eagles. The only blot on their day was the sending- off of another former Don making his debut, Michael Hughes, Palace's fourth red card in three games. "I have looked at the four sending-offs and it gives the impression we are out to kick lumps out of the opposition," Steve Kember, the Palace manager, said, "but this is not the case."

Stoke City, who only ensured their First Division safety on the final day of last season, went top when an injury-time winner, headed in by Wayne Thomas, condemned Wimbledon to a 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium. The Potters led after 26 minutes when Carl Asaba converted a penalty. Patrick Agyemang levelled, but then came Thomas's time. "We are still 44 points from safety," the Potters' manager, Tony Pulis, not a man to get carried away, said.

Coventry City's match last weekend was postponed when Watford's Jimmy Davis was killed in a car crash, so Gary McAllister, the Sky Blues' player-manager, gave belated League debuts to seven players against Walsall at Highfield Road. They dominated the match but McAllister missed a penalty and Coventry's Youssef Saffri was sent off as Walsall hung on for a point. There could be another Sky Blue debut soon, McAllister hopes to sign Craig Burley.

Despite spending £1.2 million on Rotherham striker Alan Lee, promoted Cardiff City still await their first League goal of the season after losing 2-0 at home to Bradford. Andy Gray and Lewis Emmanuel scored with long range shots. "If those goals had been scored in the Premiership you would see them on TV time after time," the Bantams' boss, Nicky Law, said.

Of the other promoted sides, Crewe earned their first points with a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town at Gresty Road, Kenny Lunt curling in a free-kick, and Wigan Athletic's Lee McCulloch scored an 89th-minute equaliser to earn a first First Division point in a 1-1 draw with Preston North End.

Norwich City beat visitors Rotherham 2-0, Clint Easton and Mark Rivers on target for the second consecutive Saturday. The Millers' had Martin McIntosh sent off. And West Bromwich Albion got their first points of the season with a 4-1 defeat of Burnley.

Robbie Blake put The Clarets ahead but the Macedonian captain, Artim Sakiri, got Albion level with a spectacular shot and Rob Hulse, a summer recruit from Crewe, headed the second and Lee Hughes scored two late goals.

Gillingham drew 0-0 for a second consecutive League match to give Derby their first point of the season. "The reaction from the Derby people at the end just shows you how far we have come as a club," the Gills manager, Andy Hessenthaler, said. Or how far Derby have fallen.

In the Second Division, Luton Town and Port Vale are the only sides to start with two League wins out of two, while in the Third, new boys Yeovil top the table, Kevin Gall scoring twice as they beat Carlisle 3-0. Doncaster Rovers, Swansea City, Kidderminster, Oxford United, York City and Torquay all have six points too.

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