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November 14, 2006 2:00 am

Dowie steps down at Charlton

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Iain Dowie became the first Premiership managerial casualty of the season on Monday after Charlton parted company with the man they had appointed less than six months ago.

The 41-year-old took over from long-standing boss Alan Curbishley in May and has only been in charge for 12 Premiership games.

But during his short time at the Valley the Addicks have won just two league matches and are bottom of the Premiership with just eight points.

The former Crystal Palace boss and Northern Ireland international led Charlton into the Carling Cup quarter-finals last week with a win over Chesterfield, but the 3-2 loss away to Wigan on Saturday proved to be his last match.

The club said on its website that it would make a full statement about the departure this morning.

Midfielders Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas on Monday pulled out of the England squad to play Holland in Wednesday's friendly, taking the number of players who have withdrawn to eight.

Lennon withdrew after injuring his knee in Tottenham's 3-1 Premiership loss at Reading on Sunday. Jenas, his Spurs teammate, pulled out with a calf injury.

Manchester United's Kieran Richardson has been called up from the under-21 squad for the match in Amsterdam as cover for Jenas. England coach Steve McClaren did not immediately call up a replacement for Lennon.

Striker Darren Bent (hamstring), defenders Gary Neville (calf) and Ledley King (knee), and midfielders Scott Parker and Stewart Downing (both groin) are injured. Goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has been given a leave of absence because his wife is due to give birth this week.

Luton manager Mike Newell apologised on Monday for his criticism of female referees, saying that his words were "ill-timed and out-of-order".

Newell's remarks about assistant referee Amy Rayner came after Luton's 3-2 defeat to QPR on Saturday. "This is not park football, so what are women doing here?" he said. "It is tokenism, for the politically correct idiots."

The remarks drew a wave of condemnation and led Newell to issue an apology. "I regret what I said and I do apologise to the people who I've offended because...they were ill-timed and out-of-order comments."

However, Newell did not retract his remarks. He also said he would not resign.

Wayne Rooney will be questioned by police investigating an scuffle outside a nightclub last month. Greater Manchester Police said they would interview the 21-year-old over allegations that a photographer was assaulted outside the Panacea nightclub in Manchester on October 15. Rooney was not arrested and the photographer did not require medical treatment.

*RUGBY UNION Andy Robinson is to remain as England's head rugby coach for the remaining two November internationals despite a seventh successive defeat at the weekend.

Argentina upset the world champions 25-18 at Twickenham on Saturday after the hosts had lost by a record score to New Zealand on the previous Sunday.

In a statement on the Rugby Football Union website, Rob Andrew, elite rugby director, said Robinson would remain in charge for the two-Test series against South Africa.

"Andy remains in charge...and we will conduct further reviews in the week following the first and second tests against South Africa to assess England's performances and results," Andrew said. "Andy is determined to turn England around to winning ways and his and the squad's focus is on beating South Africa this Saturday."

The statement was issued after what Andrew called "an open and frank" two-hour meeting between RFU officials and Robinson.

The meeting followed a deluge of criticism after the loss to Argentina.

England must beat South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday if they are to avoid the worst run in their history. Robinson has presided over 12 defeats in 20 Tests, while England have finished fourth in the last two Six Nations championships.

As a result of Saturday's defeat, England slipped to seventh on the International Rugby Board world rankings, one behind Argentina. Australia moved up one place to third after their 25-18 win over Italy in Rome at the weekend with South Africa, beaten 32-15 by Ireland in Dublin, dropping to fourth.

New Zealand increased their lead in first place to more than seven points over France, who remain second despite their 47-3 loss to the All Blacks in Lyon.

*HORSERACING Desert Orchid, the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who became one of Britain's most popular racehorses, died on Monday at the age of 27.

Former trainer David Elsworth said the grey gelding nicknamed "Dessie" died peacefully in his stable at Egerton near Newmarket racecourse. "There was no stress. He departed from this world with dignity and no fuss. He did his dying in the same individual way that he did his living. It was time to go."

Desert Orchid won the Gold Cup in 1989 and was also a four-time winner of the King George VI Steeplechase at Kempton Park. He had 34 victories overall in a 71-race jump-racing career and won £654,066 in prize money.

He was retired in 1991 after falling three fences from the finish while trying to win the King George for the fifth time. His ashes will be scattered at Kempton close to a statue erected in his honour.

*CRICKET Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen made half-centuries to lift England to 256 for four at the close on the second day of their tour match against New South Wales on Monday.

Replying to the hosts' 355 for nine declared, England overcame the early loss of Marcus Trescothick to enjoy some much-needed batting practice with the start of the Ashes 10 days away.

Strauss made 50, Cook 59, Pietersen 80 not out and captain Andrew Flintoff an unbeaten 48, with Trescothick (eight) and Ian Bell (nought) the only batsmen to miss out.

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