With so many clubs still in the frame there are head-to-head matches each week. Yesterday, Tranmere won well at Portsmouth, Stoke were easy meat for Norwich at Carrow Road. The Canaries' East Anglian neighbours, Ipswich, won 4-0 at Swindon, and Sheffield United brushed aside Crystal Palace's fading charge.
The most remarkable challenge, however, is that of unfashionable Port Vale whose ambitions continued to flourish at Vale Park although they had to work hard to beat the relegation material that goes under the name of Oldham Athletic. The 'Latics came back twice but had no reply when Tony Naylor's second goal of the game, in the 85th minute, made it 3-2 .
Meanwhile, Howard Kendall's Blades were gifted a second-minute goal at Bramall Lane when the Palace defender Simon Rodger shoved Don Hutchison and Mitch Ward scored from the penalty spot. Jan Age Fjortoft doubled their lead 21 minutes later when he met Petr Kachuro's cross 12 yards out and David White made it 3-0 with a minute left. They are a mere point behind third-placed Wolves.
Pompey trailed to Paul Cook's 16th-minute header from John Morrissey's corner and the Tranmere winger was the supplier again when his pass sent clear Gary Jones to make it 2-0 with a chip seven minutes later. Pompey never recovered and lost 3-1. To make matters worse their striker, Matthias Svensson, was taken to hospital still out cold after a clash of heads with the Rovers centre-back Andy Thorn.
In Norfolk, Norwich were ahead in 10 seconds when Keith O'Neill intercepted Graham Kavanagh's careless crossfield pass to score with a low shot. When Darren Eadie made it 2-0 early in the second half, Stoke had no answer. Ipswich broke back into the play-off places with a thumping 4-0 win at Swindon.
A close race has developed in the Second Division where leaders Bury lost 2-0 at Blackpool and Luton, third, lost 3-2 at Walsall which gave fourth-placed Stockport's 1-0 defeat of Burnley added significance. At the bottom, Notts County lost at home to Wycombe and are relegated.
Both FA Trophy semi-finals ended 2-2 after extra time with the most drama coming at the Broadhall Way meeting between the Conference sides Stevenage Borough and Woking. It started as had the first leg, with a first minute goal for the home side, Barry Hayles levelling the aggregate for Boro. Darren Hay gave Woking the lead in the second minute of extra time; Gary Crawshaw was Boro's saviour with only a minute left of extra time.Reuse content