Last updated : 18 February 2003 By

Following a busy Tuesday night, Crewe Alexandra remain in second place in the Nationwide Second Division, after an eventful 2-2 draw at Meadow Lane against Notts County.

Dario Gradi’s highfliers, have now lost only once in their last 13 league games, but will be disappointed having returned to Cheshire without all three points, especially after letting a two goal advantage slip. The Alex opened the scoring as early as the second minute, when ex-Leigh RMI striker Steve Jones, netted with his eleventh goal of the season. When Crewe increased their advantage in the 13th minute, courtesy of free scoring Rob Hulse’s 24th goal of a magnificent season, it appeared that the relegation threatened Meadow Lane outfit were about to succumb to their fifth defeat in their last seven league games.

However, in a spirited second half fight back, Billy Dearden’s side reduced the arrears just after the hour, courtesy of a Darren Caskey penalty, and substitute Danny Allsopp then rescued a point for the Magpies with an equaliser three minutes from time.

Meanwhile, Cardiff City moved back up into third place and only two points behind Crewe Alexandra with a game in hand, after they gained a narrow 1-0 victory at troubled Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium. Following a goal less first half, a solitary 58th minute strike by livewire, Rob Earnshaw, his 27th goal of a prolific campaign, proved to be enough to seal a precious three points for Lennie Lawrence’s men. For recently appointed Cobblers’ manager, Terry Fenwick, a third defeat in four games leaves the Northamptonshire based outfit in serious relegation trouble.

At the bottom, basement dwellers, Cheltenham Town, moved off the foot of the table, when they recorded a 3-1 victory over promotion chasing Tranmere Rovers at Whaddon Road, a victory that ensured a first win for new manager, Bobby Gould. The Gloucestershire outfit, with only three home victories all season, nearly fell behind in the sixth minute, when home keeper Steve Book saw a fierce effort from the visitor’s striker, Stuart Barlow, fly past him and rebound off an upright to safety. But undeterred, the home side replied and the majority of the crowd were rejoicing two minutes later when Marvin Brown, currently on loan from divisional rivals, Bristol City, put the Robins ahead with a tremendous 30 yard strike.

The Merseysiders, following a run of only one defeat in their last nine league games that had put them within striking distance of the play-offs responded, and drew level five minutes after the interval when defender Ian Sharps, netted from close range, for his first goal of the season after Cheltenham Town had failed to deal with a corner.

The game changed irrevocably just after the hour when Rovers’ Dutch keeper John Archterberg, had to leave the field with a hip injury. Gould’s side regained the initiative soon after, when Tony Naylor netted with a close range header and Martin Devaney then increased the West Country side’s lead eight minutes later. Despite late pressure, there was no way back for Roy Mathias’ Prenton Park outfit, and the northern side were left to reflect on what might have been on their long trek back up to the Wirral.

Another team faced with an arduous midweek journey home were mid table outfit, Plymouth Argyle. A late Martin Smith penalty ensured a vital home win for relegation strugglers’ Huddersfield Town against Paul Sturrock’s Club and meant the West Country side returned to Devon pointless. In front of the McAlpine Stadium’s lowest league attendance of the season (7, 294), the game appeared to heading for a no score draw, but nine minutes from the end, a through ball from the Terriers’ Chris Holland, found John Thorrington and his cross hit the arm of visiting Pilgrim, Hasney Aljofree. Referee Mr. Ilderton had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Smith duly fired home to send the West Yorkshire faithful wild. The last nine minutes was a tense affair as the Greens fought valiantly for an equaliser, but the Yorkshire team held on to record their second consecutive 1-0 home victory. The three points however, are not enough to prevent Mick Wadsworth’s side slipping to the foot of the table on goal difference, following Cheltenham’s Town’s two goal victory over Tranmere Rovers.

In the evenings other game, lowly Mansfield Town, secured a vital point in their fight against relegation when they held Wally Downes’, hard to beat Brentford, to a goalless draw at a freezing Field Mill. The point moves the Stags up a place, to fourth from bottom, but they remain in the drop zone, whilst the West London outfit also move up one, into 13th spot. (Nb. A full match report on this game can be found elsewhere on this website).