Millwall 2 Birmingham City 0
An occasion described by Birmingham's manager, Barry Fry, as a "time bomb" went off belatedly last night when mounted police arrested four Millwall fans during a baton charge as they cleared a path and allowed coaches carrying visiting supporters to depart. Chief Superintendent Ken Chapman said two officers and one police horse had been injured in the clashes.
There had been fears of further violence after the troubled match between these sides last November, but a large police presence ensured that the match itself passed off with nothing more than widespread unpleasantness. However, the night still ended in trouble.
Millwall, at least, profited on the pitch with a win which halted their slide towards the First Division relegation area, but their defender Justin Webber was left with a suspected broken jaw after what his colleagues claimed was an elbow in the face by the Birmingham substitute, Kevin Francis, four minutes from time.
The legacy of the teams' last match, when Millwall fans reacted to being pelted with missiles, was an ugly one, and Fry's pre-match comments warning of the potential harm a few "mad bastards" could do was hardly welcomed by the Lewisham constabulary. In the event, the 300 or so Birmingham supporters who had made the trip huddled placidly behind one goal, ringed by police and stewards in an otherwise deserted stand.
Upon arrival at the ground in four coaches, they had run the gauntlet of queuing Millwall fans under the supervision of mounted police. One young supporter stepped forward and gestured rudely to the sheepish faces at the windows. He was escorted away by two burly policemen. The predictably ugly background to the match was diminished by a Millwall goal after only 11 minutes: their Russian international, Sergei Yuran, back-heeled the ball into the path of Bobby Bowry, who sent a low drive inside Bart Griemink's right-hand post.
Jimmy Nicholl, the Millwall manager, had further cause for satisfaction soon after the break. After 52 minutes, Dale Gordon's speculative shot on the turn cannoned fiercely off the bar. A minute later, Gordon contributed again in a move which doubled the home side's lead, supplying Jason van Blerk, whose long cross from the left was headed in at the far post by the unmarked Chris Malkin.
Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Lavin, Van Blerk, Stevens, Thatcher; Weir, Newman, Bowry, Gordon (Webber, 69); Yuran, Malkin. Substitutes not used: Dolby, Cadette.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Griemink; Breen, Johnson, Edwards, Grainger; Hunt (Legg, 56), Cornforth, Tait, Devlin (Frain, 56); Barnes, Peschisolido (Francis, 56).
Referee: S Wilkes (Gloucester).
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