Perfect send-off for Birmingham

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City gave themselves the perfect send-off for Sunday's Worthington Cup final by beating Preston North End 2-0 in the First Division at Deepdale last night. Birmingham are now just seven points behind second-placed Bolton Wanderers with two games in hand.

Birmingham City gave themselves the perfect send-off for Sunday's Worthington Cup final by beating Preston North End 2-0 in the First Division at Deepdale last night. Birmingham are now just seven points behind second-placed Bolton Wanderers with two games in hand.

Martin Grainger curled home an 11th-minute free-kick from 25 yards and Andrew Johnson broke away after 71 minutes to seal the victory. It was an impressive performance by Birmingham against opponents who had won their previous three matches.

West Bromwich Albion wasted a chance to improve their promotion hopes when they were held to a 2-2 home draw by Crewe, who took their points tally to 11 from five matches. Bob Taylor and Jason Roberts were Albion's scorers, while 17-year-old Dean Ashton, scoring his third goal in three starts, and Rob Hulse netted for the visitors.

Sheffield United improved their chances of reaching the play-offs when LaurentD'Jaffo's 22nd minute goal was enough to beat Wolves at Bramall Lane. United were worthy winners of a fiercely contested game which saw seven players booked, three in the first 15 minutes. Kevin Muscat missed a second-half penalty for Wolves.

Barnsley eased their relegation worries when Neil Shipperley's goal earned a 1-0 victory over his former club, Crystal Palace. It was his first goal in 15 games. Steve Chettle missed a penalty for Barnsley, while Palace had a player sent off for the second match in succession, Craig Harrison receiving his marching orders for a late tackle on Alex Neil.

Queen's Park Rangers, having announced last week that Gerry Francis was stepping down as manager, won their second match in four days, Chris Kiwomya scoring the only goal at Gillingham. It was Rangers' first away win of the season and ended Gillingham's run of nine unbeaten games. A press conference planned for today to announce a successor to Francis has been postponed as two more candidates are to be interviewed.

Rangers are now fifth from bottom, last night's win lifting them above Stockport, who lost 4-0 at Norwich. Iwan Roberts was the Carrow Road hero, scoring a hat-trick in a 25-minute spell either side of half-time.

Millwall, the Second Division leaders, salvaged a point at Northampton, Christophe Kinet's 88th minute goal earning a 3-3 draw. Walsall moved into second spot after a 3-1 win put an end to Luton's three wins on the trot under their new manager, Joe Kinnear, while Wigan scorned a chance to make up ground when they lost 2-0 at Peterborough.

Chesterfield, the runaway Third Division leaders, needed a last-minute equaliser by Luke Beckett to deny Carlisle, one of the relegation candidates, who had led for 74 minutes through Ian Stevens. York, who had gone bottom of the table on Saturday, moved up two places with a 1-0 win at Rochdale.

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