Rae of Light strikes twice

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The Independent Online
THE COACHING instruction "keep it tight" fell on stone deaf ears in the Nationwide First Division as goalscorers found space, time, chances and the net with breathtaking regularity.

It all got a bit one-sided at the Stadium of Light where second-placed Sunderland thumped an under-strength Oxford United 7-0, Michael Bridges, Daniele Dichio and Alex Rae all scoring twice. The Wearsiders were 2-0 up after six minutes and never looked threatened. "It could have been better but perhaps that's me being the perfectionist," Peter Reid, victorious manager and hard taskmaster, said.

There was a more even distribution of goals at Gresty Road where Crewe Alexandra and Bolton Wanderers shared eight. Crewe had led twice before Arnar Gunlaugsson's second goal put Bolton 3-2 ahead a minute before half- time. Per Frandsen made it 4-2 five minutes into the second half but Mark Rivers and a Shaun Smith penalty rewarded Crewe's enterprise with a point.

"Superb spirit," Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager, said of his team's comeback. Colin Todd, his opposite number at Bolton, said: "The positive signs are there for everyone to see and as an attacking team we were excellent, but their goals came from bad play from us."

Graham Taylor's Watford also scored four away from home but with a more muted reply from their hosts, Swindon Town. The Robins actually took the lead after 29 minutes through George Ndah but the Hornets' response, four goals in 21 minutes, the first and last by Allan Smart, was emphatic. They move up to fifth.

Swindon supporters, disgruntled at cost-cutting exercises imposed by the board, staged an on-pitch demonstration after the final whistle demanding that the board and manager Steve McMahon quit.

Elsewhere, Barnsley also scored four without reply as Terry Venables' Crystal Palace slumped 4-0 at Oakwell. "I'm disappointed in the way we've gone about it in the last couple of games," Terry Venables, the Londoners' manager, brooded. "My patience is now coming to an end."

The shock of the day came at St Andrews where third-placed Birmingham City lost 1-0 to Grimsby Town, the Midlanders' first home defeat since March and The Mariners' first win after four consecutive defeats. The former Brum winger David Smith earned the win bonus in the 49th-minute when his left- wing cross took a slight deflection and fooled the Brum goalkeeper Ian Bennett.

"It was a howler and he has accepted the blame," the hapless custodian's manager, Trevor Francis, said. "But you have also got to look at the strikers because we had a number of glorious chances to have won the game." Aidan Davison, between the Grimsby posts, performed heroics.

Finally, there was joy for Queen's Park Rangers fans as Ray Harford's men who won at last. Kevin Gallen's two goals were enough to beat Stockport. "This is the most difficult job I have had," Harford said. "You cannot blame the chairman and directors, they threw money at the club and it did not work. Now we have to repair things. Confidence is low, even someone like Maradona out there could not turn it around straight away."