Around One – Tight at the top

Last updated : 08 December 2003 By Tony Scholes

Nicky Forster - scored both Reading goals in their 2-0 win at Wigan
Reading were back in the North West for their first away game since that 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Clarets but they had no problems completing a double over fast faltering Wigan with a 2-0 win courtesy of two goals from Nicky Forster.

One win in eight now for the Latics boosted by yet another abysmal attendance of around 7,500. The pie eaters really do struggle to show much interest when the ball is round. But the goals have dried up and apparently Wigan dominated the play but were unable to find the net despite a number of opportunities.

When former Burnley players return to the Turf they inevitably manage to score a goal and Gareth Taylor has done just that this season. So spare a thought for the Stoke fans who saw their former crowd favourite Peter Thorne return to the Britannia Stadium with Cardiff and grab a hat trick.

In a game that attracted a bigger police presence than the rest of the league put together the home side slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season. That will come as no surprise to Burnley fans who saw our game there this season, they really do look a dreadfully poor side who play not an ounce of football.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis said after the game: "We are disappointed to score two goals at home and still lose, the third goal was such a poor one to let in and at 2-1 we still had a chance especially with the strikers that we have." Surely he is not referring to Ade Akinbiyi when he talks about his strikers.

Down at the bottom with them we are pleased to report another home defeat for Franchise and a first defeat for Bryan Robson at Bradford.

There was even better news from Milton Keynes where football really has taken off. As many as 3,061 were there to see it as they surely took another step nearer the end. The result means that Rotherham who were for so long in the bottom three have now climbed to 17th place just a couple of points behind the Clarets.

Kit Symons - sent off at Preston
Bradford meanwhile could not continue the good start they made under Robson and went down to a 1-0 defeat at Walsall. Robson wasn’t accepting any responsibility for the defeat though. After taking all the plaudits last week for his touchline changes he said after the defeat, "There is only so much you can do from the touchline, they have to organise themselves once they are out there."

Apart from Franchise the Clarets have the worst defence in the division away from home but Palace are creeping up. They conceded another four this week at Deepdale and ended the game with ten men with caretaker player boss Kit Symons sent off just as they were about to go 2-0 down from the penalty spot.

It was a dubious decision to say the least but last we heard Preston boss Craig Brown has chosen not to comment. Palace did pull a goal back but conceded two late goals and are, along with Derby, just two points above the bottom three.

Derby were also beaten, 2-1 at Ipswich, and things hardly went well for George Burley on his first return to Portman Road. The Rams were a goal down in 26 seconds and then doubled Ipswich’s lead for them with the bizarre and needless own goal scored by Youl Mawene. They did pull one back but it was the home team who collected the points in a dull game.

League leaders West Brom were another side to benefit from an own goal against West Ham at the Hawthorns. That came from Hayden Mullins but Brian Deane equalised for draw specialists West Ham. It was their tenth draw of the season.

Mullins was Alan Pardew’s first signing for West Ham coming in on the first day the new manager was in charge. This is the first time he has found the net since his transfer.

David Johnson - Forest are missing his goals this season
Just below West Brom are Norwich and they had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Millwall in a less than entertaining 90 minutes. It’s all changed at Millwall since Mark McGhee was sacked because they were as low as eighth in the table. Dennis Wise and Ray Wilkins have now settled them into eleventh place, I’m sure Kebab seller Paphitis will be delighted with this.

It’s all gone wrong for Forest this year but that is hardly surprising given that their leading scorer David Johnson has been out for much of the season. But they got a point at ever improving Watford with a last minute goal from the impressive Andy Reid.

Suggestions are thought that all is not well at the City Ground and since winning at the Turf they have won just two of fifteen games and those two wins have come against the bottom two. The simple fact of the matter is that the goals have dried up and apart from the win against Franchise they are scoring at the rate of just one goal per match.

Finally Crewe and Gillingham fought out a 1-1 draw at Crewe and that result, along with Coventry not playing, allowed us to move up a couple of places in the table.

There are some midweek fixtures this week and a full fixture list next Saturday. All midweek fixtures kick off at 7:45 p.m. and all Saturday fixtures at 3:00 p.m. unless otherwise shown.

Monday 8th December

Coventry City v Sunderland (8:00 p.m.)

Tuesday 9th December

Bradford City v West Bromwich Albion
Crystal Palace v Crewe Alexandra (8:00 p.m.)
Cardiff City v Preston North End
Sheffield United v Walsall
West Ham United v Stoke City

Saturday 13th December

Burnley v Coventry City
Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
Franchise v Walsall
Gillingham v Preston North End
Millwall v Ipswich Town
Norwich City v Cardiff City
Rotherham United v Derby County
Sheffield United v Watford (5:35 p.m.)
Stoke City v Reading
West Bromwich Albion v Crewe Alexandra
West Ham United v Sunderland
Wigan v Bradford City

Leading Goal Scorers (League Only)

16: Robert Earnshaw (Cardiff)
14: Marlon Harewood (West Ham – 12 with Nottm Forest)
10: Robbie Blake (Burnley)
10: Andy Reid (Nottm Forest)
9: Ricardo Fuller (Preston)
9: Rob Hulse (West Brom)
8: Pablo Counago (Ipswich)
8: Dougie Freedman (Crystal Palace)
8: Steve Jones (Crewe)
8: Andy Liddell (Wigan)
8: Peter Ndlovu (Sheff Utd)
8: Peter Thorne (Cardiff)
7: Darren Bent (Ipswich)
7: Jermain Defoe (West Ham)
7: Nathan Ellington (Wigan)
7: Scott Fitzgerald (Watford)
7: Nicky Forster (Reading)
7: Jason Koumas (West Brom)