Wigan continue the leading habit

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The Independent Football

Wigan Athletic led the Nationwide Second Division for most of last season, and show every intention of doing the same in the First. With their manager, Paul Jewell, in charge for his 100th match, Lee McCulloch led the celebrations, heading in Jimmy Bullard's 11th-minute corner at the far post to set up a 1-0 home win over Watford. A sixth consecutive victory, it leaves them two points clear.

Is Jewell enjoying the pressure at the top? "I would prefer to do things in a quieter manner, but there is not much chance of that, there were even some photographers here today. But I'm confident we can handle it."

Peter Ndlovu scored twice in midweek as Sheffield United beat Rotherham by five and yesterday he went one better, claiming a second-half hat-trick as the Blades again grabbed five, beating Cardiff City 5-3 at Bramall Lane to go second. Remarkably, the game was goalless at half-time.

There were big wins, too, for Burnley, Luke Chadwick scoring two in their 4-0 defeat of Bradford City at Turf Moor, and Preston North End, who scored four for the second consecutive game in a 4-1 defeat of Rotherham United.

And that was the score at Portman Road as Ipswich Town beat Wimbledon. The Dons, bottom of the table, will be hoping that their fortunes improve when they make their debut in their new Milton Keynes home next week. "It will bring fresh impetus to the club, but it won't stop us letting in goals and giving away penalties," Stuart Murdoch, the Dons' manager, said. "We are bottom on merit."

Millwall went sixth after a 2-1 win over Walsall at the New Den but the good news was overshadowed by the bad: the Saddlers' Paul Ritchie was sent off in the tunnel after the match by the referee, Phil Prosser, and was later being investigated by the police. "I saw it, a few of the players saw it, as did some stewards," Colin Lee, Ritchie's manager, said. "It was a nothing situation blown up out of proportion."

Players often score against their former clubs, but you hardly expect a goalkeeper to. Trailing 1-0 at Derby County, the Sunderland keeper and one-time Ram favourite Mart Poom went up for a corner in the second minute of injury time, and headed the equaliser. "The Derby fans were fantastic to me while I was here," Poom said, "and I never really had a chance to say goodbye to them." He has now.

Reading's caretaker manager, Kevin Dillon, wants the job but a 2-1 home defeat by Coventry was another blot on his letter of application. "I was very disappointed," the Royals' chairman, John Madejski, said. "We are well into our plans for the future but not ready to announce them. We don't want to be pushed into a decision we might regret."

Crewe came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 at Gresty Road. Kenny Lunt, Dean Ashton and Steve Jones were on target as Forest slipped to fifth. Stoke City and Norwich City drew 1-1 at the Britannia Stadium.

Port Vale stayed top of the the Second Division after a 1-0 win at Bristol City. At the bottom, Chesterfield, the only Nationwide side without a win, maintained their unenviable record with a when they lost 4-0 at Grimsby. And Stockport, with John Hollins in charge after the sacking of Carlton Palmer, lost 3-1 at Blackpool.

Finally, as memories of the artificial surfaces at Queen's Park Rangers and Oldham fade, the Scottish Premier League side Dunfermline unveiled their synthetic turf pitch at East End Park, part of a two-year experiment sanctioned by Uefa, with a dull goalless draw with Hibernian.

Jim Calderwood, the Pars manager, did not blame the surface. "The pitch had nothing to do with the way the game went. We couldn't pass the ball from A to B."