Sweet spot for McGinlay

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The Independent Online
IF THINGS go on like this, the first promotion place from the First Division will be booked well before Easter and it will be Colin Todd's patently superior Bolton Wanderers who will be making the reservation.

Their 2-1 home defeat of Birmingham was their seventh consecutive win and came on a day when most of their rivals dropped points. Yet Bolton had been by no means the better side when Jamie Pollock gave them a 29th- minute lead, chesting in Nathan Blake's cross for his fourth goal in four games.

Paul Devlin caught the leaders' defence napping to equalise but in the 78th minute, Martin Grainger brought down John McGinlay, was sent off and McGinlay scored the penalty to stretch Bolton's lead to 12 points.

Sheffield United lost 2-1 at Swindon and Darren Eadie's 89th-minute equaliser for 10-man Norwich - Robert Fleck saw red in the 44th minute - against Barnsley at Carrow Road meant that Wolves, 2-0 home winners over Stoke in front of 27,000, moved into second place. Steve Bull scored both Wolves' goals, making 16 for the season.

Crystal Palace beat Queen's Park Rangers, 1-0, in a frantic London derby at Loftus Road. The midfielder David Hopkin scored the winner. Picking up the ball in the centre circle, he charged forward before unleashing a 30-yard shot for his 13th goal of the season.

"He had flu last week," the Palace manager, Dave Bassett, said, "but now he has played three games in a week. He's knackered." Craig Brown, the Scotland national coach, saw it all. "I can say Hopkin is playing well," Bassett added, "but it's up to Craig Brown. He's already got 40,000 Jocks telling him what to do."

Less luck for the Bradford City striker, Gordon Watson. The club's record signing suffered a double fracture of the leg against Huddersfield and will be out for six months. The game ended 1-1, Chris Waddle equalising for Bradford with a far-post header. No, honestly.

Charlton had Richard Rufus (26 minutes) and Mark Kinsella (42) sent off as they lost 2-0 at bottom-of-the-table Grimsby. The referee Brian Coddington also gave the Mariners a penalty when Phil Chapple brought down Jack Lester, a minute before sending off Rufus.

Southend were also down to nine as the second half of their 0-0 home draw with Ipswich kicked off. Andy Rammell was having contact lens trouble and the superstitious Phil Gridelet insisted on being last on the pitch. "I just didn't think they would start without us," he said.