Tragedy overshadows start of season

The death of Watford striker Jimmy Davis overshadowed the first day of the Nationwide League season.

The death of Watford striker Jimmy Davis overshadowed the first day of the Nationwide League season.

Watford postponed their Division One meeting with Coventry after the 21-year-old – on loan from Manchester United – was killed in a car crash in the early hours of this morning.

Elsewhere, West Ham got their return to Division One off to a winning start as they beat Preston 2-1 at Deepdale.

The Hammers’ Jermain Defoe and new signing David Connolly were on target as the Londoners – relegated from the Barclaycard Premiership last season – came from behind to win after American striker Eddie Lewis had given the home side the lead.

Former England striker Paul Merson sparked a stunning start to Walsall’s season, scoring twice as the Saddlers recorded a 4-1 defeat of midlands rivals West Brom on their return from a season in the Premiership.

Merson – who joined the Saddlers after helping Portsmouth win promotion last season – opened the scoring in the 18th minute and doubled the lead after 39 minutes.

Jorge Leitao netted the third in first-half stoppage time, and Steve Corica’s 57th-minute effort all but killed the game – although Jason Koumas pulled a goal back for the visitors before the end.

Dougie Freedman scored a hat-trick as Crystal Palace won 3-2 at Burnley despite ending the game with nine men.

Freedman gave Palace the lead from the penalty spot, but Wayne Routledge was sent off after 11 minutes for bringing down Luke Chadwick.

Robert Blake scored from the resulting free-kick, and Lee Roche put the Lancashire side ahead eight minutes later.

But Freedman was on target again in the 32nd minute to bring the scores to 2-2 - and the former Nottingham Forest striker later completed his hat-trick.

Shaun Derry was sent off for a professional foul on Paul Weller, but the south London side held out for the three points.

Stoke cruised to a 3-0 win at Derby after scoring twice inside the first 20 minutes.

Gifton Noel-Williams and then Chris Greenacre scored the first-half goals for the visitors – and Lewis Neal added a third in stoppage time.

Wimbledon came from behind to win 3-1 at home Crewe, who took the lead when captain David Brammer curled in a left-foot shot after 11 minutes.

The Londoners equalised four minutes later through Patrick Agyemang and took the lead after 54 minutes through Alex Tapp.

Nigel Reo-Coker netted Wimbledon’s third eight minutes later.

Michael Branch scored a stoppage-time equaliser as Bradford battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Norwich at Valley Parade.

A Mark Rivers penalty gave Norwich a 1-0 lead, and Clint Easton doubled their advantage two minutes into the second half.

But the Yorkshire side pulled a goal back through Ben Muirhead in the 84th minute, and Branch sent the Norwich fans home disappointed.

Newly-promoted Wigan did not enjoy their first taste of the First Division as they lost 2-0 at Millwall thanks to a Dennis Wise goal eight minutes into the second half and a Tim Cahill strike after 74 minutes.

Tommy Miller converted a stoppage-time penalty to equalise for Ipswich in their 1-1 draw at home to Reading.

Steven Sidwell’s 59th-minute goal for the visitors was the difference between promotion candidates Ipswich and Reading at Portman Road.

The Thames valley outfit were reduced to 10 men following Nicholas Shorey’s 78th-minute dismissal for a professional foul.

But Jim Magilton went down under a Graeme Murty challenge, and Miller fired home the spot-kick.

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