Upstarts force big guns to come out blazing

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The Independent Football

Three of the Nationwide First Division's big guns, Man-chester City, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, fired warning salvoes to their promotion rivals yesterday with hard-earned wins.

The Sky Blues' victory was predictable, coming against Crewe, who have yet to gain a point this season, but the performance naturally included a typical City blip.

Paulo Wanchope and a Stuart Pearce penalty put them 2-0 up three minutes before the interval. Remarkably, Crewe were level by half-time thanks to late strikes by Wayne Collins and Colin Little. However, City's strength paid off in the last 10 minutes when Shaun Goater scored twice and Wanchope added his second to lift them to sixth.

The City manager, Kevin Keegan, struggled to analyse this one. "Not a game for the purists. It was a game which had everything and nothing – it was just unbelievable – but that's Manchester City."

Walsall's supposed hoodoo over their Midlands rivals held no fears for visitors Birmingham City. Tommy Mooney's third goal of the season put Brum ahead after 20 minutes, but 14 minutes later Martin Grainger was sent off for a second booking.

Brum were unfazed and went further ahead when Geoff Horsfield netted. Danny Sonner picked up a second booking to join Grainger, and although the Saddlers scored against nine men it ended 2-1 and Brum moved up to seventh.

"We dominated possession, scored a goal, hit the crossbar, but we went down to 10 men and that changes your plans," Trevor Francis, Brum's manager, said. "But we still kept playing and got two-up to give us breathing space."

Wolves beat Watford 1-0 at Molineux thanks to an assist by Ramon Vega, who turned Cedric Roussel's low cross into his own net after nine minutes. Wolves go fifth.

Dave Jones, the Wolves manager, kept his £1.75 million signing, the former Hearts Scottish international midfielder Colin Cameron, on the bench until the final few minutes and promised more spending. "I will ask the chairman for another two players. There is a lot of hard work still to come, but if anybody takes their foot off the gas, I will give their shirt to somebody else."

Burnley, after ending last season strongly, are certainly keeping their pedal pressed to the floor. A hard-fought 2-0 victory at Millwall's New Den kept intact their perfect start. After a tight first half, the Lions were tamed by two Moore strikes in the space of six minutes. First, Ian netted after 63 minutes following a mistake by Millwall's keeper, Tony Warner, then Alan doubled the lead in the 69th. The latter is on a three-month contract; manager Stan Ternent hopes to sign him to a longer deal. Burnley go second.

Gillingham's strong start was maintained by a sparkling Marlon King display in the 3-0 defeat of Barnsley at the Priestfield Stadium. King, suspended for the first two League games, laid on Iffy Onoura's opener and then scored twice. Gills, now third, have yet to concede a goal.

Grimsby are fourth after a 2-2 home draw with Preston. The Mariners went ahead before the half-hour through Jonathan Rowan, but Colin Murdock soon equalised and David Healy put Preston ahead at the start of the second half. An Alan Pouton penalty, awarded for shirt-pulling, salvaged a point.

Wimbledon fans marched from the club's old ground, Plough Lane, to their present home, Selhurst Park, in protest at the board's refusal to shelve plans for a new home far away. They might wish they had taken a wrong turning on the way. The Dons lost 1-0 to Norwich City.

At the bottom, Stockport are still without a point after Portsmouth's Croatian international, Robert Prosinecki, in his first League start, scored from the penalty spot to give Pompey a 1-0 win.

Elsewhere, the two Bristols, City and Rovers, top the Second and Third Divisions respectively, but the three clubs from Devon, Plymouth, Exeter and Torquay, prop up the entire League.