Wise men get no gifts

Football round-up
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The Independent Online
OF THE three wise men newly appointed to guide Endsleigh First Division sides after yet another week of dizzying managerial changes, Martin O'Neill at Leicester and Lennie Lawrence of Luton have most cause for satisfaction. Neither saw their teams win but will have been heartened at the way they grafted a point in situations as unpromising as the weather.

Steve Walsh had mixed fortunes for third-placed Leicester's 2-2 draw at Grimsby. The game was four minutes old when Jamie Forrester crossed and Walsh turned the ball past goal keeper Kevin Poole. The Mariners sailed into a two-goal lead thanks to Jim Dobbin but Leicester fought back in the second half, none harder than Iwan Roberts, who pulled a goal back after substitute Julian Joachim set him up. Centre-back Walsh then turned hero in the 90th-minute, scrambling the ball over the Grimsby line in a goalmouth melee.

Luton made it hard for themselves against fifth-placed Huddersfield at Kenilworth Road. Captain Steve Davis seemed to have snookered them when he was sent off four minutes into the second half for a professional foul on Andrew Booth. At the time, the Hatters were leading 1-0 thanks to Dwight Marshall's 36th-minute strike, his 10th goal of the season.

Booth equalised, his 12th of the season, and a fine pass from Ronnie Jepson set up Lee Makel to put the Terriers ahead. Lawrence will have been pleased by the Hatters' spirit which got its reward 11 minutes from time when David Oldfield headed in Marshall's cross. But they stay bottom.

No festive joy for Gary Megson who saw his new charges Norwich beaten 1-0 at Portsmouth, Pompey's fourth consecutive win. The Canaries lost the game when winger Jimmy Carter fed John Durnin who cut in from the right to beat Bryan Gunn with a left-foot shot. As Norwich stuttered, their fans were in better voice, chanting for chairman Robert Chase's resignation.

Howard Kendall's second match in charge of Sheffield United ended like the first, in a draw. Mark Patterson, signed by Kendall from Bolton in part-exchange for Nathan Blake, looked a bargain when he scored after eight minutes against Stoke at the Victoria Ground.

Nigel Gleghorn and Mike Sheron put the Potters in front but the visitors equalised after Kendall brought on Glyn Hodges, whose centre was headed in by David White. And when Stoke's Ian Cranson was sent off with 13 minutes remaining, the Blades had made their point.

West Brom established an unwanted club record when Crystal Palace beat them 3-2 at The Hawthorns, Albion's 10th consecutive defeat. Dean Gordon, Palace's England under-21 international who is at present on the transfer list, scored a hat-trick including two penalties. Albion's manager, Alan Buckley, will have had better Christmases.

Jonathan Hunt's 11th goal of the season won the match at St Andrews for Birmingham City against Tranmere - Rovers' fifth consecutive defeat, not quite Albion standard but they are working on it. Barry Fry's side, who knocked Middlesbrough out of the Coca-Cola Cup in mid-week, are fourth three points behind the new leaders Derby.

There are also new leaders in the Second and Third Divisions. Crewe won 2-1 at Bristol Rovers to top the former; in the latter, Preston drew with Gillingham while Chester lost to Barnet.

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