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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The View Outside The Premier League: Leicester savage Bristol City and Port Vale leapfrog Gillingham


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Sqf hugh larkin

Life is beginning to look very grim again for Bristol City fans. Last season Derek McInnes came in midway through the season and helped the Robins stay in the Championship. But now the Scot has paid the price for another campaign of struggle and a home hammering from Leicester City proved to be the final straw.

McInnes hasn't been helped by the form of the other teams scrapping near the drop zone; Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough have all been showing signs of life of late, which pushed City to the foot of the table.

It hasn't taken long for Sean O'Driscoll to find work again after his dismissal by Nottingham Forest. His work at his former clubs is much admired in the game but he has a tough job to keep the Robins at their current level.

In contrast to the gloom at Ashton Gate, Chris Wood is having the time of his life. The young striker can't stop scoring and he plundered a hat-trick on Saturday. His start with Leicester has been outstanding and he could turn out to be a real bargain.

The Foxes are moving through the gears nicely now and with no side apart from Cardiff really stamping their authority on the division, Leicester supporters might see the promotion campaign that was expected last season.

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Port Vale won the biggest match of the season in League Two when they came away with a 2-1 victory at promotion rivals Gillingham. The win took Vale over the Gills to top spot but it would be a huge surprise if both these sides weren't in League One next season.

As usual in 2012/13, it was Tom Pope who got the visitors off to a great start - his 26th strike of the season. The Gills had to come back from a two-goal deficit and though they got one back, Vale have a defensive record second only to the Kent side.

The hugely experienced Darren Purse stepped in for his Port Vale debut and typically produced a man of the match display. Big games like this one are meat and drink for the veteran defender and his arrival should shore up the Valiants' promotion push.

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This column has often mentioned the battling qualities of the Yeovil Town squad - often tipped for relegation but serial escape artists at the bottom. This season though the Glovers are giving their vociferous fan base even more to cheer about as they have battled to the edge of the play-off berth. On Saturday two Paddy Madden goals produced a win at high-flying Sheffield United.

Manager Gary Johnson is just a great fit for the Somerset club that he brought out of the Conference. He's showing the same ability to assemble a team that produces more than the sum of its parts and right now, Yeovil are a team no one takes lightly.

Madden is a typical Johnson signing. The Irish player suffered with injury at his first League club - Carlisle - but the Yeovil boss gave him a loan chance and the Dubliner now has 11 strikes in 17 appearances.

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The battle for the single automatic promotion slot from the Blue Square could go to the final day. In several seasons teams like Fleetwood have run away with the title but this year its as tight as it gets. Wrexham lead Newport County by a point and Grimsby are just one further back. Luton Town have games in hand to close the gap while Kidderminster and Forest Green Rovers are still in with a shout.

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Hugh Larkin

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