Barnsley taught a Stern lesson
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The Independent Football

Stern John scored the only goal of the game on his home debut for Birmingham City against Barnsley, reawakening the Midlanders' fight to win a Nationwide First Division play-off place. The Trinidad & Tobago striker, signed from Nottingham Forest, was set up by Geoff Horsfield's squared pass and he side-footed in six minutes into the second half.

With games in hand, Steve Bruce's side are four points off a play-off place. "It was imperative that we got a result on the day," he said. "We had a lot of chances and overall we deserved the win."

Watford's chances of a return to the Premiership have fallen away so badly that five of their highest earners were put on the transfer list last week. One of them, Allan Nielsen, gave away the penalty at Hillsborough that set Sheffield Wednesday on the way to a 2-1 win.

The Hornets dominated the first half with Jermaine Pennant, on loan from Arsenal, setting up several chances including the one that Gifton Noel-Williams did not miss. But Efan Ekoku's weak spot-kick squeezed under Alec Chamberlain and Shefki Kuqi poked in the late winner.

While Gianluca Vialli, the Watford manager, bemoaned his side's continuing bad luck; Terry Yorath, the Owls' boss, succinctly said: "They won the first half, we won the second half. But we won the game because we grafted harder. We've won two games on the trot now and if we manage a third I think we will have turned the corner."

The three points lifted Wednesday one place and they are level on points with two other troubled Yorkshire sides, Rotherham United and Barnsley. The former drew 0-0 at Portsmouth, which was probably something of a relief for Graham Rix, the Pompey manager, whose side had drawn 4-4 and lost 4-3 on the two previous Saturdays.

But after a £10,000 FA fine last week for his side's indiscipline, he will not have been pleased by Kevin Harper's dismissal for two yellow cards. Pompey were booed off.

Grimsby Town's prospects of First Division survival received a welcome boost when Stuart Campbell headed the only goal of their game against visitors Sheffield United. It was their first goal of the year at Blundell Park. "It's something to build on," Paul Groves, the Mariners' manager, said, not getting carried away by a first win in nine games. "There is a lot of hard work still to be done. The big thing is the collective spirit we have here."

In the Second Division, Brighton's Junior Lewis scored the only goal to beat Huddersfield and take them to within two points of the leaders Reading. Bristol City beat Oldham 3-0 and moved up to third, above Stoke City, who drew 0-0 at Notts County, and Brentford, who were held 1-1 at Peterborough.

It was top versus the League's rock-bottom side in the Third Division as Plymouth Argyle maintained their 10-point lead by beating Halifax 2-0 at The Shay. Mansfield went second after a 4-2 defeat of Darlington but Luton Town slipped to third when Matthew Sparrow scored in the last minute to earn visitors Scunthorpe United a 3-2 win.

In the Conference, Dagenham & Redbridge went top after a 3-3 draw at third-placed Yeovil. Second-placed Boston United will go back on top if they at least draw with Hereford tomorrow night.