Watford rally to tame Terriers

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The Independent Online

Logic has no place in football. Relegated sides are usually tipped to challenge at the top of their new divisions because they have been accustomed to playing at a higher level, albeit with a significant lack of success that has accustomed them to losing. Conversely, the winning habits of promoted sides will supposedly give them an edge in their new division.

Logic has no place in football. Relegated sides are usually tipped to challenge at the top of their new divisions because they have been accustomed to playing at a higher level, albeit with a significant lack of success that has accustomed them to losing. Conversely, the winning habits of promoted sides will supposedly give them an edge in their new division.

Which brings us to Watford, who spent much of last season propping up the Premiership but quickly reacclimatised to Nationwide football to win 2-1 at Huddersfield Town despite being outplayed for much of the match.

The Terriers, whose own promotion push dramatically fell apart towards the end of last season, took the lead after 16 minutes when Martin Smith crossed from the right and Steve Palmer headed firmly into his own net. Same old Watford, then. But two goals in as many minutes either side of half-time changed the complexion of the game. Neil Cox equalised and two minutes after the break Tommy Smith scored the Hornets' winner.

By contrast, Gillingham, promoted after a second successive Wembley play-off final, made harder work of the step up in class against Stockport County. Guy Butters scored the first First Division goal of the season to put the Gills ahead in the third minute but reality in the shape of Ian Moore's equaliser set up County's 3-1 away win.

By contrast, Preston North End, runaway winners of the Second Division, carried that good form on and celebrated their return to the top two divisions after 20 years with a 2-1 win at Grimsby Town.

Teams that reached the play-offs are also fancied for promotion because they have proven quality and one canny signing can transform them into certainties. Barnsley, who lost in May's First Division play-off final, look as though they are going to carry on doing things the hard way. Against Norwich City at Oakwell, the Tykes' full-back, Carl Regan, signed from Everton, made an inauspicious start when he was sent off after 18 minutes following a two-footed lunge at Daryl Sutch, leaving the 10-man Tykes to sweat it out for 72 minutes. Another debutee, Lee Jones, late of Tranmere, scored their winner in a typically gritty performance.

The two other unsuccessful First Division play-off qualifiers, Bolton and Birmingham City, drew. Bolton were held 1-1 by promoted Burnley while Brum shared a goalless draw in London at Gerry Francis's Queen's Park Rangers.

At Bramall Lane, Sheffield United were in ebullient form against luckless Portsmouth. Paul Devlin put the Blades ahead from the penalty spot after Justin Edinburgh had brought him down and Pompey then lost Andy Awford, who was taken for X-rays on a jaw injury. Hopes of a Pompey revival were quashed when new signing Linvoy Primus put into his own net.

In the Second Division, newly-promoted Swansea City drew 0-0 with Wigan Athletic, who are now under the stewardship of Bruce Rioch. Of the other promoted sides, Rotherham were 2-0 up against relegated Walsall but lost 3-2, Northampton Town drew 1-1 with Brentford but Peterborough won 1-0 at Oxford United.

Port Vale, who were relegated with Walsall, lost 4-1 at Oldham Athletic but Swindon Town have regrouped under new ownership and Colin Todd's management and drew 0-0 with Colchester United.

Two other clubs with new managers met at Kenilworth Road where Ricky Hill's Luton Town lost 1-0 to Jocky Scott's Notts County. And Danny Wilson, after his traumatic season at Sheffield Wednesday, saw new charges Bristol City win 2-0 at Wrexham.

In the Third Division, Cardiff City's 2-1 win at Exeter - goals in each half courtesy of Kevin Nugent and Joshua Low - will encourage the former Wimbledon chairman Sam Hammam to complete his takeover of the Welsh club. Not much change for Brian Little, though, who looks set for another hard season: Hull City lost 3-1 at relegated Blackpool but his brother, Alan, will be heartened by Southend United's 2-0 defeat of Brighton.

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