Roker roars on

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AN EIGHTH successive win, admittedly more dour than the seven preceding ones put together, gave Sunderland their best winning run for 100 years and put them four points clear at the top of the Endsleigh First Division. Struggling, defensive-minded Oldham Athletic did not go meekly and held out until the 82nd minute when the full-back Martin Scott broke the deadlock.

For the Wearsiders' 19-year-old goalkeeper, Shay Given, on loan from Blackburn, the 1-0 win meant a seventh clean sheet at Roker Park and a possible first Republic of Ireland cap after Sheffield United's Alan Kelly pulled out of the friendly against Russia in Dublin with an injured back.

"Young Given has been getting rave notices and I won't be worried about using him in my starting line-up," said the Republic manager McCarthy. He may also lose John Sheridan (calf).

Aside from Sunderland, the team which profited most yesterday were fourth- placed Charlton. With two games in hand, they cut the gap on the second- and third-placed sides by beating play-off hopefuls Stoke 2-1 at The Valley. They left it mightily late and were a touch lucky.

The Potters led through Mike Sheron, soaked up second-half pressure and with five minutes remaining seemed to have weathered the storm. Then Ian Clarkson handled Mark Robson's cross and Paul Mortimer walloped in Charlton's 10th penalty of the season. With a minute left, David Whyte rose to head in Shaun Newton's cross.

Jeremy Goss's first goal of the season for Norwich, a second-half blast from Dean Yates's half clearance, condemned second-placed Derby County to a second defeat in three matches. The Canaries had not won at home for 12 games. The play-off hopes of their East Anglian neighbours Ipswich took a dip after a 2-1 defeat at Port Vale, who are edging away from relegation

Elsewhere at the bottom, only Sheffield United won. Don Hutchison's goal 12 minutes from time at Bramall Lane beat Luton. Reading were well-beaten 2-1 at Tranmere. Watford drew 1-1 with West Brom but only wins will help now.

In the Second Division, Blackpool and Swindon are beginning to open a gap at the top. They had comfortable 3-1 and 2-0 home wins over Carlisle and Peterborough respectively but Third Division leaders Gillingham were surprisingly pegged back by Andy Arnott's 87th-minute equaliser for Leyton Orient at Priestfield.