Oxford inspired as Wolves lose their bite

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The Independent Football

Denis Smith, the Oxford United manager, yesterday hailed his side's shock 1-0 Worthington Cup success at Wolves as exactly what the team needed after a poor start to the season.

Denis Smith, the Oxford United manager, yesterday hailed his side's shock 1-0 Worthington Cup success at Wolves as exactly what the team needed after a poor start to the season.

The former West Bromwich Albion manager had seen his team fail to score in defeats against Peterborough and Port Vale in the first eight days of the campaign, but they will now take a slender lead back to the Manor Ground for the second leg in a fortnight's time. "That will give the lads a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. It will lift everyone," he said.

The Wolves manager, Colin Lee, is growing increasingly bemused at how a barrage of goal attempts have brought so little reward this season - with just two goals in three matches. Lee said: "We have had 20-odd shots to their four and that seems to be the story of our season so far."

The angry Stockport manager, Andy Kilner, pulled no punches after his side's 1-0 home defeat by Third Division Blackpool. "That was the worst performance I have seen from a County team since I became manager," said Kilner. "It was an abominable performance and I can only apologise to the supporters for having to watch it."

In contrast, his opposite number, Steve McMahon, was pleased with his side's display but refused to get carried away. "To come to a First Division club and to play the way we did was very pleasing," said the former Liverpool midfielder.

Another surprise came when Rochdale, of the Third Division, stunned Blackburn with a last-minute equaliser from Tony Ellis at Spotland after Nathan Blake had put Rovers ahead.

Meanwhile, Cheltenham Town have set up the prospect of a thrilling second leg at Whaddon Road after they held Watford to a goalless draw at Vicarage Road.

Last year's beaten finalists Tranmere Rovers proved they are still partial to the competition, beating Halifax 3-0 with goals from Wayne Allison, Paul Rideout and Wayne Gill.

Sheffield United's striker Marcus Bent scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 demolition of Lincoln at Bramall Lane, while York were overwhelmed by Stoke, who go into the second leg at home with a 5-1 lead. Andy Payton also hit three in Burnley's 4-1 win over Hartlepool at Turf Moor.

Northampton ended Fulham's 100 per cent start to the season with a 1-0 win at Sixfields. The veteran Marco Gabbiadini was the hero with a clinical strike in the 24th minute.

Another First Division club facing an uphill struggle in the second leg are Huddersfield, who have ground to make up after losing 1-0 at Oldham to Carlo Corazzin's first-half goal, while Preston lost 1-0 at Shrewsbury, the former Hartlepool striker Chris Freestone scoring in the 61st minute.

Bury put up a tremendous fight at Crewe and led 2-0 with six minutes to go through Darren Bullock and Adrian Littlejohn, but their night was ruined with late goals from the First Division side's Steve Foster and Mark Rivers.

Darlington and Nottingham Forest also battled out a 2-2 draw at Feethams. The Quakers led through Stuart Elliott's 15th-minute penalty, were pegged back by another spot-kick from Christ Bart-Williams, led again after 61 minutes through Glenn Naylor, but Alan Roberts gave Forest parity after 73 minutes.

Grimsby, who sacked their manager Alan Buckley in the morning, ran out 2-0 winners over Carlisle.

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