Newcastle stretch title lead at trot

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The Independent Online
TOP of the Premiership played bottom at St James' Park yesterday without the anticipated mayhem but with the expected result as Newcastle United beat Bolton Wanderers, to go 12 points clear.

Kevin Keegan's side needed a home match against a side like Bolton, who have not won a league match away from home all season, to shrug off the disappointment of their midweek FA Cup penalty shoot-out failure against Chelsea.

Wanderers did not go quietly, however. The Newcastle striker Les Ferdinand had not recovered from the rib injury he picked up in the Cup replay which meant another chance for Paul Kitson and he was quick to make the most of it, heading the Magpies in front from a Peter Beardsley cross after only nine minutes.

Thereafter Bolton threw off the shackles that have bound to a relegation place all season. Ten minutes after Kitson's strike, Warren Barton fouled Sasa Curcic and former Magpie Scott Sellars curled the free-kick in for Gudni Bergsson to head an equaliser in off the far post.

But the 41 points which separate the sides told when, after 37minutes, Beardsley conjured the winner. Second-placed Manchester United can close the gap if they win tomorrow night's televised match at West Ham.

Bolton's fellow relegation candidates, the Sky Blue Citys Manchester and Coventry, emerged with honours even after their battle at Maine Road, which probably suited Coventry better. They have now won four and drawn two of their eight previous matches.

Alan Ball's strugglers, who scored five against First Division Leicester in a midweek FA Cup replay, went ahead after 55 minutes through Uwe Rosler but Dion Dublin equalised 11 minutes later. Niall Quinn had earlier missed several good chances for the home side.

There was a relegation scrap in London too, which was not good news for Queen's Park Rangers. Yesterday's 2-1 defeat against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park was Rangers' seventh London derby this season and they have lost them all.

Typically, the atmosphere at Selhurst Park often had as much hubbub about it as a funeral parlour but matters warmed up after 34 minutes when Wimbledon defender Alan Kimble sent Matthew Brazier sprawling in the penalty box. No spot-kick, referee Stephen Dunn decreed.

Rangers felt even more aggrieved six minutes later when a spectacular volley by Oyvind Leonhardsen, from Dean Holdsworth's cross, gave the Dons the lead.

But what would a Wimbledon match be without controversy? Their striker, Mick Harford, was sent off after a 54th minute clash with Mark Hateley and three minutes later Hateley rubbed in the salt by equalising. But Andy Clarke, who scored the winner in the Don's FA Cup replay against Watford, repeated the trick. QPR have lost their last five Premiership games.

Newcastle's conquerors on Wednesday night, Chelsea, had enough left in the tank to beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, John Spencer scoring the goal.