Mellon's thumping drive squeezes life out of Luton

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Micky Mellon, the Tranmere Rovers captain, scored the only goal of a tough all-Second Division FA Cup fourth-round tie at Kenilworth Road to give his side victory over Luton Town and reach the last 16 for the fourth time in five seasons.

It was a cagey game with several battles, notably one between Rovers' Iain Hume and the Luton defender, Sol Davis, who appeared to headbutt the Canadian international. Luton escaped then but a moment of hesitation cost them dear. Rovers' Danny Harrison went down on the halfway line but Mellon gathered the ball and ran at Luton's retreating defence before firing in a 20-yard shot that thumped in off the post.

"Micky has scored quite a few goals for us this season so it was no real surprise that he stepped up and got another one," Brian Little, the Rovers manager, said. "We were good in the second half and we just about edged it. This club has quite a cup tradition and hopefully we can carry it on."

Luton were aggrieved not to get a late penalty when Gareth Roberts brought down Keith Keane. "I don't need to look at a video," Luton's infuriated manager, Mike Newell, said, "I know it was a penalty. I can take it when a referee holds his hands up and says he might have made a mistake but in this instance I thought [Matt Messias] was just arrogant. He had one season in the Premiership, but that probably says it all."

In the League action, Crystal Palace followed last Saturday's 5-1 win at Watford with another First Division victory on the road when they deepened the relegation gloom in Yorkshire by beating struggling Bradford City 2-1.

The improvement wrought in Palace by the arrival of manager Iain Dowie was evident in their opening burst and they went ahead after 13 minutes when Andy Johnson scored his 18th goal of the season. Two minutes later Neil Shipperley pounced on an error to make it 2-0, the Eagles' 13th goal in four away games.

Thereafter "some of our defending was very pleasing," Dowie thought. "We were resolute, showed a great spirit and a willingness to throw their bodies in the way." The Bantams broke through once, midfielder Ronnie Wallwork, on his debut at the start of a month's loan from Manchester United, heading in.

"We have 17 games to go and we're going to have to get another eight or nine wins," was the frank assessment of Bradford's plight by their assistant manager, Colin Todd.

In the Second Division the leaders, Plymouth Argyle, march on. They won 2-0 at Stockport, David Friio, with his 13th goal of the season, and Graham Coughlan on target and have now gone over 10 hours without conceding a goal. But second-placed Queen's Park Rangers lost 1-0 at Bournemouth which meant Bristol City, third, who won 2-1 at Hartlepool, closed the gap to five points.

Hull City, the Third Division leaders, were the only side in the top three playing yesterday and goals by Danny Allsopp and Ben Burgess in a three-minute spell around the hour earned a 2-0 win at Cheltenham Town. Fourth-placed Mansfield Town beat lowly Southend United 1-0 at Field Mill to move within a point of automatic promotion.

In Scotland, Rangers scored after 12 minutes to beat Livingston 1-0 at Ibrox in their Scottish Premier meeting. Peter Lovenkrands cut in from the left and fed Fernando Ricksen. His 20-yard shot was blocked by goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie only for Christian Nerlinger to net the rebound.