Wolves at the door

Catherine Riley looks at the crucial first-leg matches in today's play-offs
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The Independent Online
GRAHAM TAYLOR today faces his biggest test since returning to club management, aiming to put his unhappy recent past behind him when he was pilloried as England manager.

"You live for the present. You cannot compare achievements," said Taylor, who is down to his last 16 fit players for the home first leg of their First Division play-off against Bolton after Paul Blades joined the ever- growing Molineux injury list.

"We want to get into the Premiership and whether you have been successful or unsuccessful in the past has little bearing. They were great times for me at Watford and Aston Villa, but I'm now a Wolves man. The rest of my career is behind me."

Bolton have goalkeeper Keith Branagan back and Neil McDonald in for the injured Mark Patterson. The league meetings between the teams have seen healthy home wins for both, and Bruce Rioch, the Bolton manager, believes the two matches will probably be very tight.

"Experience of the play-offs is irrelevant," Rioch said. "The players' form is the only thing you can look at now."

While the play-offs are a new experience for Taylor, they are very familiar for the Tranmere manager, John King, whose side have been beaten by the eventual Wembley winners for the past two seasons. King, who expects Eric Nixon, Shaun Garnett and John Morrissey to be fit for the home game with an unchanged Reading side, is hoping John Aldridge and Pat Nevin's experience will prove crucial.

A full house of nearly 19,000 is guaranteed at Huddersfield for Brentford's visit in the Second Division play-off. Huddersfield could have Gary Crosby, who has recovered from a dislocated elbow, in for Simon Collins, while left-back Martin Grainger returns after suspension.

Crewe - who have Phil Clarkson on stand-by if striker Dele Adebola fails a test on his hamstring - visit Bristol Rovers for their play-off match.

In the Third Division, free-scoring Mansfield - only Birmingham matched their 84-goal tally - play host to Chesterfield, who finished 16 points ahead of them. In the Lancashire derby, Bury - who have centre-half Chris Lucketti back - make the short trip to Preston.

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