That was the weekend that was

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Poor Poole still in deep water

Few goalless draws can have been celebrated quite like Poole Town's against Bashley Town on Saturday, the Beazer Homes League (Southern Division) side thus avoiding by one result becoming Britain's worst team in senior football.

Instead, having lost not 40 but a mere 39 consecutive matches, they share the distinction with Stockport United, who endured the same sequence in 1977. The Poole players basked in the limelight. "I don't think there has been so much media interest since we got to the third round of the Cup in 1926," director Barry Hughes said.

But behind Saturday's party mood lies a sorry tale with little apparent prospect of a happy ending. Homeless since Poole Stadium, their base for 63 years, was deemed unfit in 1993, Town share a ground with Hamworthy United, of the Dorset Combination, but that arrangement ends on 4 May and all efforts to find a suitable alternative have failed. After that, unless they agree to drop several rungs on the non-League ladder, they will have nowhere to go.

It is a far cry from the 1960s, when they were as big as Wimbledon and Hereford in non-League terms and had their eyes on a Football League place. "It is really sad, especially for a town of 135,000 people," Hughes said.

Magpies on wing and a prayer

Peter Beardsley may have been in chirpy mood for Newcastle United at St James' on Saturday but spare a thought for Peter the Budgerigar, who bit the dust when the Magpies went down in dramatic fashion at Anfield last week.

Two Geordie fans, watching the game at home on television, lashed out in anger when Stan Collymore scored the winner for Liverpool at the death and their budgie crashed to earth in the process.

Peter Phillips and Dominic Hourd only realised their pet was dead when they later surveyed the damage to the living room of their home in Westgate Road, Newcastle. Needless to say the pair were sick as parrots when they realised that they had knocked Peter's cage to the floor in the commotion.

Charity worker for the homeless, Dominic, 26, said: "When we scored our goals we were jumping up and down and getting really excited about the game. Peter's cage was standing up in the corner and there was no problem. But when Liverpool scored their fourth goal so near the end we couldn't believe it. The cage was knocked down accidentally as we kicked out after the final whistle."

"We were really upset about the game and I'm so embarrassed about this. Every time we tell people the story they start laughing."



'I asked him whether he though it was right to hand out the same punishment for breaking a leg as for kicking a ball away. Then I asked how much time he had added on - and I didn't get a satisfactory answer to either question' - Liverpool manager Roy Evans, trying to find some consistency in the refereeing of Peter Jones at Highfield Road.

'Beardsley scored two fantastic goals. The first was a great goal - any goal would have been great at that time - but the second was out of this world' - Kevin Keegan, with every right to eulogise about Beardsley's match-winning brace.

'It's just another tale of Woan for us. It was nice to see him score with his right foot to prove that he doesn't just use it for standing on. I have got two bogey sides - Forest and Villa - and I hope they both get relegated' - Spurs chief Gerry Francis making light of defeat.

'I'm pleased with our result because we were careless. In fact I'm relieved, although I wouldn't say we were lucky' - Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, generous in victory, but only to a point where rivals City are concerned.

'I'm not frightened of Vinny Jones. I'm not frightened of anyone and I told him to calm down, because we do not want this sort of thing at Upton Park' - West Ham's Croatian signing, Slaven Bilic, defending East End honour in the London derby against Wimbledon.


Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Ignoring the sagely advice of Alan Hansen to reinforce his defence, Kevin Keegan will break the bank for another goalscorer this summer - if The People's crystal ball is correct. And his top target is the exiled Magpies fan, Alan Shearer.

The People floats the idea of a pounds 12m swoop for the Blackburn striker, supposedly frustrated by the Ewood Park club's failure to build on last year's championship success and not yet ready to go abroad. Intertwined with this rumour are suggestions that Les Ferdinand, courted by Arsenal, wants to return to London, that unsettled Keith Gillespie may go back to Manchester United for pounds 3m and that Arsenal may also move in with a pounds 4m offer for Warren Barton.

According to the Sunday Express, however, Arsenal are more interested in Milan's Croatian star Zvonimir Boban, out of contract this summer, who will agree a move to Highbury, apparently, if Rioch's team qualifies for Europe and agrees to a modest pounds 25,000-a-week salary plus a pounds 1m signing- on fee.

And Alex Ferguson, so the Mail on Sunday says, is still preoccupied with beating Milan to the signature of pounds 5m-rated Ajax midfielder Edgar Davids, who will also be free to go in the summer.

Turn back

the clock

No one would put their mortgage on Coventry winning at Old Trafford today but given the Sky Blues' extraordinary record of top-flight survival, few would dare say it cannot happen - especially after Saturday's unscheduled defeat of Liverpool. Indeed, compared with some of their legendary escape acts, the task facing Coventry now - only one place from safety with five games still to play - looks a doddle.

Since Jimmy Hill steered them out of the old Second Division in 1967, Coventry seem to have been locked in a permanent battle against relegation. Several times they have looked beyond rescue... but have always found fate leaping to their rescue. Such as in 1969, when a last-day defeat for Manchester United at Leicester would have sent them down. United won 3-2.

Or in 1985, when only by winning their last three games could they survive. They did - beating Stoke, Luton as well as the newly crowned League champions, Everton. Or in 1992, when they lost at Aston Villa on the final day of the season and would stay up only if Notts County beat Luton, which, naturally, County did.

"It will go to the wire," manager Ron Atkinson says. Will Coventry have their noses in front again?

Missing person

KINGSLEY BLACK (Nottingham Forest)

The 27-year-old Northern Ireland international (right) cost Forest pounds 1.5m from Luton in 1991 but today finds himself a fringe figure following Steve Stone's deployment on the right wing and Ian Woan's progress on the left. His one senior appearance this season was his first for Forest in 16 months, although he has been loaned to Sheffield United and Millwall. Celebrated a year on the transfer list last month but saw deadline day pass quietly.

Watch out for...

ALUN ARMSTRONG (Stockport County)

County's blond-haired striker tasted elation and despair within a minute at Edgeley Park in January, snatching an 88th-minute FA Cup equaliser against Everton only to see John Ebbrell score at the other end while he was still celebrating. But the season did not end in tears for the 21-year-old, a pounds 50,000 bargain buy from Newcastle two years ago. His 17 League goals have given County a sniff of the Second Division play-offs.


reasons why...

Charlton might regret staging rugby league at the Valley

1 They will have to import pies (from Wigan) when Wigan visit

2 Fans will demand Charlton make five tackles and then kick the ball upfield

3 High-pitched cheers from schoolchildren let in free might shatter eardrums

4 Super League sounds ever-so-slightly better than Endsleigh First Division

5 Taking the posts up and down may give Scotland fans some ideas

6 After Southampton are relegated they might send out the wrong team when playing against the Saints

7 Even worse, the wrong Paris St-Germain team might turn up

8 Turnstile operators will have to take elocution lessons to understand all those northern accents

9 Squeeze may want to play there every week

10 Carl Leaburn might be tempted to try his luck in the second row

n Walsall have banned St John Ambulance men from taking off injured players on stretchers at the Bescot Stadium after they tipped the club captain, Martin O'Connor, on to the pitch as he was being carried off in a match against Chesterfield last month. From now on a special band of trainee footballers will be given the job. Club officials were concerned with what might happen with a seriously injured player.

Red card


Take a bow


























Programme notes

No 18: Plymouth

Price: pounds 1.50. Pages: 48. Third Division programme of the season, according to Britain's two programme collectors' magazines. Stacks of statistics and strong coverage of reserve and youth teams and activities of Argyle fan clubs around the country.