Round-up: Diaz passes his first exam at Oxford

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The Independent Football

In a week of managerial debuts perhaps the most exotic, if unsung, was that of Ramon Diaz, five titles for River Plate and 24 Argentina caps to his name but now hoping to get Oxford United out of the League Two mire.

Diaz brought with him a six-man entourage of coaches, doctors, physios and translators but, alas, no South American footballers, which is what the Bulls could do with the most. Yet Diaz still got off to a winning start in the relegation scrap with Cambridge United, another varsity city side who've been failing too many exams of late.

Tommy Mooney and Craig Davies scored the goals as Oxford won 2-1. Cambridge, managed by Hervé Renard - the French are of course ten a penny in English football these days - are one place and one point off the bottom.

Meanwhile, back in the Championship, third-placed Sunderland welcomed their Argentinian, Julio Arca, back after suspension to beat Cardiff City 2-0 at Ninian Park. The home side had the better of the first period but Dean Whitehead's long shot and Liam Lawrence's strike won it for the Wearsiders.

"No team is that much better than any other in this league," is the assessment of the Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy, "but today we had two bits of quality added to a little luck in our own area to help us win the game."

Sheffield United moved into the play-off places on goal difference after a 2-2 draw in the Yorkshire derby at bottom club Rotherham United. Michael Tonge and Paul Shaw gave them the lead but headers from set pieces by Chris Swailes and Martin McIntosh earned Ronnie Moore's side a point.

Millwall edged closer to the top six after a 2-0 win over Brighton, who are managed by former Lions boss Mark McGhee and had the former Millwall striker, Steve Claridge, in the starting line-up. A goal by Scott Dobie set up the win. "Brighton play five across midfield, and we needed the first goal - a great finish from Scott - that's why I brought him here," the Millwall player-manager, Dennis Wise, said. Substitute Paul Ifill scored the Londoners' second.

Derby County and Stoke City emerged triumphant from the big Midlands derbies of the day. The Rams beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Pride Park, Tommy Smith's opener coming after just four minutes. Derby's Ian Taylor also missed a penalty but Grzegorz Rasiak scored two to make it eight goals for the season.

Defeat left Forest rooted in the bottom three, six points behind Coventry City, who lost 1-0 at Stoke when the Potters' Ade Akinbiyi scored with a 21st-minute header. "I feel sorry for Peter Reid and his players," Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, admitted. "They were the better side for a lot of the game - but that's the way football can go."

Elsewhere, Crewe Alexandra beat visitors Plymouth Argyle 3-0, Dean Ashton's 18th goal of the season among the strikes at Gresty Road. Dario Gradi's side are 12th, four points off the play-offs, but further progress surely depends on whether they keep Ashton.

Another striker getting chairmen brandishing the cheque book is Burnley's Robbie Blake. He scored both goals as the Clarets won the north-west derby with Preston North End 2-0. Blake, the subject of three recent unsuccessful bids by Wigan, has scored 13 this season.

"The last two weeks has caused major disruption to our club," the Burnley manager, Steve Cotterill, revealed. "But Robbie Blake has trained like a Trojan, he hasn't thrown his toys out of the pram. He has been immaculate."

Not to be outshone in the matter of managerial changes, League One had former Sheffield Wednesday manager Danny Wilson making his debut in the Milton Keynes Dons dug-out and he saw the Dons beat Wrexham 3-0.

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