Stricken Strachan faces flak of Coventry fans

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The Independent Online

With relegated Coventry City's quick return to the Premiership looking unlikely following a sluggish start in the Nationwide First Division, patience has already run out at Highfield Road. After Grimsby Town's 1-0 win there, which keeps the Mariners in second place, fans unfurled "Strachan Out" and "Sack The Board" banners – possibly left over from last season – and some 200 stayed in the stadium long after the match had ended in protest.

At the final whistle, several Sky Blues' fans tried to discuss the situation at close quarters with the manager, Gordon Strachan, but were headed off by police and stewards. The game was won by a comical goal. Magnus Hedman, the Coventry keeper, relieved his own centre-back, Mo Konjic, of the ball on the edge of the penalty area, dribbled past John Rowan but lost control and the ball ran to Phil Jevons who chipped it into the empty net from 30 yards. By the end Grimsby had substituted their strikers for midfielders to comfortably protect the lead.

Strachan declined to meet the press after the match but Lennie Lawrence, the Mariners' boss, had sympathy for his predicament. "I have been a victim of it and I don't like to see it. Gordon is the last person in management who deserves this, because of his passion for the game. I sincerely hope he gets through it."

Birmingham City are third after two goals – an Andy Johnson header and a Bryan Hughes strike – were enough to beat visitors Sheffield Wednesday. But it was goalkeeper Alan Kelly, on loan from Blackburn, who earned most of the praise from Brum manager Trevor Francis.

Will Norwich follow their East Anglian neighbours Ipswich into the Premiership? A 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Carrow Road, Zema Abbey, the Canaries' former Cambridge striker on target, lifted them to fourth.

Wolves went fifth after a 2-1 win at Preston. Chris Lucketti put the home side ahead in the 34th minute but then came half-time and a few choice comments from the Wolves manager, Dave Jones. "I am disappointed in that it needed some harsh words to get us going. I told them, 'If you want to get back into the game you have to do the dirty part of football, close them down and get tackles in.'" Three minutes after the restart Andy Sinton levelled. Jolean Lescott's 61st-minute goal won the match.

The Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane between Sheffield United and Bradford City had all the expected passion and no little goalmouth action. After two minutes Eoin Jess put the visitors ahead, then the Blades scored twice through Keith Curle and Carl Asaba, but Andy Tod made it 2-2 six minutes before half-time. It was the Blades' fifth draw in five games this season.

Portsmouth's Robert Prosinecki scored twice for Croatia in midweek but saw his penalty at Fratton Park saved by Vince Bartram, the Gillingham keeper. It got worse. Iffy Onuora gave the Gills the lead. Then things got better. Neil Barrett equalised and, in injury time, Alessandro Zamperini, struck the winner.

A second consecutive home win eased Crewe into mid-table. Rodney Jack and Kenny Lunt were on target as the Railwaymen beat Walsall 2-1. Stockport are still bottom but at least they have a point now after Scott Taylor made it 2–2 in injury time at Barnsley.

In the Second Division the new leaders are Brentford thanks to their 4–0 thrashing of relegated Tranmere Rovers. And Gareth Griffiths scored both goals as the Third Division leaders, Rochdale, beat Kidderminster Harriers 2–0 at Spotland.

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