Stewart first to react

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Paul Stewart scored his first goal of the season and it was enough to give Sunderland the three points against a disappointing Aston Villa at Roker Park. In fact, for almost an hour the game had turned in to the Stewart and Mark Bosnich show as striker and Villa goalkeeper jousted.

Shortly after the Villa striker Tommy Johnson fluffed a fine chance when let in by Andy Melville's error, Stewart raced on to a through ball and was hauled down by Bosnich.

The booking did nothing to unnerve the keeper, however, as he beat out David Kelly's 25th minute penalty kick. But Stewart snapped up the loose ball and forced it past Bosnich. Five minutes later, Stewart had the ball in the net again but was ruled to have fouled the keeper.

Two wins over Leeds in five days seemed to have broken the spell at Villa, where a muted start to the campaign contrasted sharply with pre-season expectations of a prolonged championship challenge, as though Brian Little's side were bewitched by their own potential.

Certainly, the Rokerites had had the better of the first half and continued to dominate after the break. Bosnich foiled 18-year-old striker Michael Bridges two minutes into the second half and two minutes later the keeper was injured in a clash with Stewart. He carried on for eight minutes before giving way to substitute Michael Oakes.

Two doughty draws away from Highfield Road - one after a bombardment at Highbury which left Steve Ogrizovic with a broken nose, the other in a nervy Coca-Cola Cup tie at Gillingham - should have put Coventry City in the mood to improve on their miserable Premiership record of only one win in 10 previous starts which has left them one off the bottom. Instead, it seems to have given them a drawing habit.

Sheffield Wednesday, the early season leaders, have slumped subsequently going six Premier matches without a win. The imaginative play of Benito Carbone, Orlando Trustfull and Regi Blinker kept the Sky Blues at full stretch and the Owls' leading scorer, Andy Booth, headed wide of the far post from close range when Blinker and Ian Nolan combined down Wednesday's left after 16 minutes. But Steve Ogrizovic and Kevin Pressman were in excellent form in the Coventry and Sheffield goals.

In the First Division, Norwich City narrowed Bolton Wanderers' lead to one point after a 3-2 win at Birmingham.thanks to goals by Andy Johnson, Neil Adams and Kevin Scott.

The fizz of midweek Coca-Cola Cup heroics often goes flat but Charlton Athletic and Stoke City, First Division sides who held Liverpool and Arsenal respectively to 1-1 draws, drew enough encouragement from those results to beat Oxford (2-0) and Portsmouth (3-1) in the league.

In Scotland, Paul Gascoigne presented his acceptable face scoring a hat- trick as Rangers beat Motherwell 5-0. Brian Laudrup bagged the other two.

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