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Tuesday, 08 January 2013

The View Outside The Premier League - Hatters hammer Wolves and Wimbledon climb off the bottom


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Sqf hugh larkin

There was a heavily truncated league programme as the third round of the FA Cup occupied centre stage. Pride of place from Saturday's results went to Luton Town - semi-finalists in the 80s - who dumped out Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Luton's win signalled the end of Stale Solbakken's unhappy time at Molineux and the board wasted no time in replacing the Norwegian with former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Dean Saunders. Luton fans have a taste of cup glory again but would probably prefer getting their League place back- was cruelly taken from them by draconian points deductions inflicted for misdeeds of a previous boardroom regime.

The Hatters have come close to a return to the Football League several times but the contest for promotion from the Blue Square Premier is very fierce, as Macclesfield's win over Cardiff City also emphasised.

Cardiff gambled on playing a number of teenagers at the Moss Rose and paid the price - once the Silkmen equalised late on, the momentum ran with the home side and the visitors were pushed back. A late penalty won the game for the Blue Square outfit.

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Away from the Cup Wimbledon pulled off a tremendous win at Rochdale. Paul McCallum's goal was enough to take the club out of the bottom two. It was a bad day for the West Country as Bristol Rovers and Plymouth Argyle are now in the relegation berths.

Barnet also bagged three points as Edgar Davids took over full control at Underhill. A clean sheet against a Bradford City side that are challenging for the play-offs will have given the Dutchman most satisfaction. After a dreadful opening to their campaign the perennial strugglers have real hope of saving their league place.

As mentioned in this column last week, the fight to avoid the drop to the Blue Square Premier has become a real dogfight. No teams have been cut adrift and all the clubs near the bottom have shown signs of life, with Plymouth the big losers at the moment.

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A few matches were staged in League One and the significant result was Doncaster Rovers' late winner to edge Colchester. It took Rovers to the same points as leaders Tranmere (who were getting a pasting at Derby in the cup) and condemned the U's to a record eight league defeats on the spin.

Amazingly Colchester are still just outside the bottom four but at the moment they look like dead men walking. Rovers by contrast, are in rude health and did what good sides often do - grab a late winner in a tight contest. David Cotterill's strike was hard on the visitors but luck is in short supply in the sort of run they are on.

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Mansfield Town enhanced the reputation of the Blue Square on Sunday by running Liverpool mightily close in their cup tie. Like Luton, the Stags are another club who paid the price of one bad season by losing their League status.

The North Notts club were never regular cellar-dwellers and their absence from the league removed two potent derby games between the Stags and Notts County and Mansfield's extremely bitter rivals in Chesterfield. The club are now on a sound financial footing and have a decent chance of reaching the play-offs this season.

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Hugh Larkin

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