Hellish for El Tel

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables' influence as director of football at Portsmouth may yet turn around the fortunes of the south coast's slumbering giant but it was scarcely in evidence during Pompey's fraught, ill-disciplined start to the Nationwide First Division campaign, which ended in 3-1 defeat at promoted Bradford City.

Terry Fenwick's side dominated the first half, taking the lead after 26 minutes when Paul Hall volleyed in Jimmy Carter's left-wing cross but after the break the visitor's discipline exploded like a bottle of Marks & Spencer's buck's fizz. Venables' heart must have missed several beats at the Pulse Stadium as he saw defender Andy Awford and goalkeeper Aaron Flahavan sent off in the space of five second-half minutes.

Pompey, still ahead at the time, were soon in arrears. Dutch striker Erik Regtop converted a penalty; Lee Duxbury and Mark Stallard completed the win. Venables, who left midway through the second half, said: "I have taken this job because I wanted to keep busy in football for a while until my future is clearer. I think you could see there is some potential in the Portsmouth side and this is very encouraging."

Relegated Queen's Park Rangers, under new owners, came back from 1-0 down at home against promoted Oxford to win 2-1 with goals by Kevin Gallen and Daniele Dichio, a 66th-minute substitute for Mark Hateley. Will the years of spending finally pay off for Wolves? They won 3-1 at Grimsby thanks to a Steve Bull hat-trick and some inspired saves by Mike Stowell.

Mike Walker, accorded a standing ovation for his first game back as manager of Norwich, saw the Canaries beat promoted Swindon 2-0, whose manager, Steve McMahon, was not best pleased. "We looked as though we were waiting to get beaten," he fumed. "I just hope we've learnt some lessons from all this because if we haven't it's going to be a long, hard season."

Which may have been Kerry Dixon's thoughts as the former Chelsea favourite watched his first game as manager of Third Division Doncaster, a 1-0 home defeat against relegated Carlisle. Hull won too, a rare treat after last season's relegation, Duane Darby scoring a hat-trick in their 3-1 win over Darlington. Swansea, who came down with the Tigers, beat Rochdale 2-1 despite having player-manager Jan Molby sent off.

In Scotland, Rangers' 100 per cent start continued with a 5-2 demolition of Dunfermline, Ally McCoist adjusting his sights for the trip to Vladikavkaz with a hat-trick, though Gordan Petric may miss the trip to Russia with a hamstring injury. "This was a pleasing victory for us," the manager Walter Smith said, admitting, "We did well in the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes." Even that was enough.

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