Mills aids Port Vale's challenge

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As the battle for First Division play-off places gathered pace yesterday, Port Vale moved into fifth with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Tranmere, Lee Mills scoring either side of the interval to cancel out Kenny Irons' 23rd-minute opener.

Fellow play-off hopefuls Ipswich, who had striker James Scowcroft sent off for two bookable offences in the first half, suffered a 2-1 defeat against struggling Grimsby. Paul Mason gave the visitors a 10th-minute lead, but Clive Mendonca equalised four minutes later and former Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee came off the bench for the 74th-minute winner.

Portsmouth also missed an opportunity to rise into the play-off zone by losing 2-1 to bottom club Southend.

Lou Macari, the Stoke manager, was escorted to the stand by security men after being ordered away from the dug-out for protesting too vehemently during their 1-0 defeat at Bradford.

Brentford restarted their promotion challenge with a hard-fought victory over Gillingham as the top of the Second Division remained unchanged.

The Bees emerged from an inconsistent run by claiming a deserved victory at Priestfield, but they had to fight back after Iffy Onuora's 22nd-minute opener. Mark Janney and Carl Asaba clinched the points with goals either side of the interval, but Bury maintained their three-point advantage with a 2-0 victory over Wycombe.

The leading teams in the Third Division promotion race all dropped points. Leaders Wigan slipped to a surprise 1-0 home defeat by Cardiff, while second-placed Carlisle lost 2-1 at Leyton Orient and third-placed Fulham could only draw 1-1 with Rochdale.