Hughes bang up to date

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The Independent Online
MEETINGS between Chelsea and Leeds United still retain a distinct fragrance of the late Sixties and Seventies, of Peter Osgood and Allan Clarke, Ron Harris and Norman Hunter. Yesterday's meeting at Stamford Bridge saw Chelsea's 1996 vintage, orchestrated as ever by Ruud Gullit, have by far the better of the exchanges. Two goals in as many minutes midway through the first half gave them control they never looked like losing before winning 4-1.

First, a Mark Hughes right-foot volley in the 19th minute beat John Lukic. It was a shot the Leeds goalkeeper should have held but he had less chance a minute later when John Spencer ran through the visitors' threadbare defence to curl a low shot into the net.

There were ironic cheers from Leeds' travelling fans for Lukic when he finally held a shot - they had long been hooting derision at the manager Howard Wilkinson - before the hapless custodian was beaten for a third time, by Hughes, 10 minutes before half-time. The Welsh international striker completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half after Gary Kelly had brought down Spencer. Hughes's rest cure while on suspension was obviously successful.

The piping voice of Alan Ball will have reached dog-whistle level in the Maine Road dug-out as Manchester City beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 to improve their chances of Premiership survival.

The City manager had preferred Uwe Rosler to Niall Quinn in attack, rather surprisingly given the Republic of Ireland international's recent scoring record and Rosler's nervousness in front of goal. But the German striker repaid the decision when he scored the only goal of the game after 65 minutes.

Wimbledon's late run of form continues. Their 2-1 win at Middlesbrough made it four wins in five matches. Robbie Earle started the dismantling of Boro's five-game unbeaten run in the 12th minute when he poked in his 14th goal of the season from a Vinnie Jones cross.

The Tees-siders had Jamie Pollock back in midfield after a tow-match suspension and Nick Barmby, recovered from injury, played up front with Juninho; but their equaliser came from a totally unexpected quarter. Barmby and Graham Kavanagh set up the full-back Curtis Fleming on 23 minutes to cut inside Neil Ardley and fire in his first goal since signing from St Patrick's, Dublin. That was in August 1991 and over 150 appearances ago.

Parity lasted until the 64th minute when Earle burst through a square Boro defence and ran on to set up a simple chance for Efan Ekoku, who had no trouble in scoring his 10th goal of the season.

The first Endsleigh League relegation issue of the season was decided at Boothferry Park when Hull City's 2-1 defeat by play-off contenders Crewe meant the Second Division called time gentlemen please on the Tigers. Never mind. Just think of those Humberside derbies against Scunthorpe.

And in Scotland congratulations are due to East Fife, who got the point at Clyde to win promotion from Division Two, and to Livingston who won promotion to Division Two after a 1-0 win at Brechin.

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