Sunday 17 December 2017

In brief: Healy impact not enough

DAVID HEALY set up the opening goal after just 23 seconds on his Ipswich debut but David Wheater's equaliser left Roy Keane's Tractor Boys just one place above the Championship relegation zone following this 1-1 draw.

Northern Ireland striker Healy was signed from Sunderland on transfer deadline day, along with Daryl Murphy, and the pair combined in the first minute to put the hosts ahead. Healy crossed from the right and Murphy clipped a shot into the bottom corner from 12 yards. It was his first goal in in almost two years.

Wheater had not scored in 18 months, but the big defender headed home just past the hour mark to leave Keane frustrated.

Blackstock fires Forest

Dexter Blackstock bagged a brace to keep Nottingham Forest hot on West Brom's heels in the race for automatic promotion, as Forest battled to a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The striker scored a penalty in the first half and then, after Luke Varney had levelled for Wednesday, Blackstock pounced for a close-range winner.

West Brom, though, stay a point above Forest, with Simon Cox on target in a 1-0 win at Plymouth.

'Chucho' happy at St Andrew's

Christian Benitez insists that he is enjoying life at Birmingham but says he is thinking only about the present, not about extending his stay beyond the end of the season. The Ecuador striker arrived at St Andrew's in the summer from Mexican side Santos Laguna, initially on loan.

The Blues have the option to make his switch permanent at the end of the campaign in a club-record transfer potentially worth nearly £8m.

Having overcome injury problems, Benitez has become a first-choice forward -- despite scoring just two league goals in 21 games -- alongside Cameron Jerome, with the pair again expected to lead the line in today's derby with Wolves.

"I'm only thinking about the present, I can't think about the future," said Benitez (23), known as Chucho, loosely translated as annoying little dog. "I'm here playing for Birmingham and that's what I want to do and that's what I'm concentrating on.

"I've settled in very well. I know it's the best league in the world and I'm very happy to be here."

Hiddink tops Nigeria's list

GUUS Hiddink is being tipped to lead Nigeria to the World Cup after the Super Eagles sacked coach Shaibu Amodu yesterday.

Amodu has carried the can for his side's disappointing performance in the African Cup of Nations.

The Nigerian federation said its shortlist to replace Amodu includes Hiddink, Ratomir Dujkovic, Louis van Gaal and Peter Taylor; the candidates will be interviewed by the end of the month.

"The team has come to a key junction to decide whether we want to be viable. We are looking for someone who will drive this process professionally," spokesman Ademola Olajire said:

Nigeria finished third at the Cup of Nations, beating Algeria in a play-off, but fans were angry at the semi-final defeat to Ghana.

They are in a World Cup group with Argentina, Greece and South Korea.

Lowly Saints hold Rangers

Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller both made their comebacks but could not prevent Rangers from being held to a 0-0 draw by unfancied St Mirren in the Scottish Cup.

The strike duo were both back from injury and thrown into the fifth-round tie in the second half, but neither side could break the deadlock, and they will meet again in a replay at Ibrox on Wednesday week.

The sides also set to clash in next month's Co-operative Insurance Cup final.

Fabregas 'will go to Barca'

Cesc Fabregas has admitted that he hopes to play for his boyhood club Barcelona in the future.

The Arsenal captain told Catalunya Radio that he has never hidden the fact that "one day I will return to Barcelona".

Fabregas (22) said he first went to the Nou Camp at the age of nine months, before joining the club as a youth-team player.

Sunday Independent

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