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Monday, 18 February 2013

The View Outside The Premier League: Shrewsbury surprise Tranmere, Cardiff win again and Burton Albion make a move


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Sqf hugh larkin

Tranmere Rovers were hoping to steal a march on their promotion rivals with their game with Shrewsbury Town staged on Friday night. Unfortunately, Ronnie Moore's side had one of those nights and the Shrews went away with three vital - and unexpected - points.

Rovers were down to 10 men very early in the game when midfielder Liam Palmer went into a tackle with too much force. Twenty years ago a warning, 10 years ago a yellow but in modern times a straight red - and suddenly Graham Turner's side were in with a big shout.

If that wasn't bad enough, one of Tranmere's best players, keeper Owen Fon Williams, picked this moment to produce a howler of a dropped cross to gift the opening goal to the visitors. He later redeemed himself with two fine saves but the damage had been done and the Shrews never looked back.

Ronnie Moore will probably put this one down to bad luck and get his players to focus on the next match. The Wirral club are still very much in the hunt for automatic promotion after a great season. Shrewsbury are in a fight to stay in League One and this win gives them a decent cushion to the drop zone.

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Cardiff City showed why they seem nailed on to see out the rest of the season and finally get to the Premier League. The Welsh side already had a fine array of attacking options but being able to bring in Frazier Campbell for the run-in just emphasises the task facing their rivals.

Campbell bagged a brace on his home debut, engineering a 2-1 win over a stubborn Bristol City side. At this stage of the campaign just ticking off the victories is what matters and there's a steeliness about Malky Mackay's team in 2012/13. Everyone connected with the club are desperate to have no truck with the play-offs again.

Bristol City made it tough for the league leaders and they still have every chance of avoiding the drop under the patient prompting of Sean O'Driscoll. A point from this trip would have been a bonus and the spirit is clearly there.

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Not a great week for Birmingham City. Lee Clark took the fairly unprecedented step of not only dropping Nikola Zigic but castigating the player's attitude in public and the team went on to capitulate 4-0 to a confident Watford side.

The season is becoming a bit of a damp squib  for the Blues and they still have to keep a wary eye on the relegation battle. Just four points separate them from Barnsley and like their local rivals Wolves, crashing into League One would be a disastrous turn of events.

Barely two years ago the Blues lifted the League Cup and ironically, Zigic is one of the few players left at the club from that great day in February 2011. Not much has gone right at St Andrew's in the past two years and boss Lee Clark is seriously under pressure.

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Burton Albion slipped into the third automatic promotion slot in League Two after pulling off a 4-0 win at Fleetwood - albeit after the home side saw their keeper dismissed early on.

The Staffordshire club are in with a real chance of making the jump to League One after joining the Football League in 2009. Unlike Crawley and Stevenage they have had an unspectacular beginning to their league career, in keeping with the style of the club.

Under Nigel Clough the Brewers developed steadily towards a point where they  could challenge for the Conference title after several agonising near-misses for promotion from the Southern League. A swap to the Northern Premier did the trick and then there was more consolidation before the Conference triumph.

Patience has been the watchword for everyone connected to the club over the past fifteen years since Clough arrived in 1998 and Gary Rowett is close to taking the Brewers to the next level.


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Hugh Larkin

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