Birmingham thwarted

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The Independent Online

Birmingham City 3 Charlton Athletic 4

Yesterday was yet another story in the life of Barry Fry. His Birmingham side were 1-0 up inside 90 seconds, 4-1 down after 70 minutes and within a goal of a draw 10 minutes later.

The bottom line, however, is that Charlton deservedly reclaimed second place in the First Division yesterday. They are now seven points behind the leaders, Derby, with a game in hand.

"We have been in this position before and failed in the closing weeks. I am hoping that this time we can go all the way and win promotion," said Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager.

After three successive away wins, Charlton may have feared their run was about to end as early as the 25th second. Lou Donowa tumbled over in the area and Jonathan Hunt, who had seen his penalty saved in the Coca- Cola Cup game with Norwich City in midweek, scored his 12th goal of the season from the spot.

Charlton, the only club in the division not to have paid for a player this season, fought back with their composed passing football, although luck played a large part in their equaliser.

Carl Leaburn's back-header came off a post, but went into the net after cannoning from the face of the Birmingham defender Andy Edwards. His partner, Liam Daish, misjudged another Leaburn flick to allow Kim Grant a second, and a minute before the interval the flag stayed down as Lee Bowyer escaped down the right, crossing for the unmarked John Robinson to coolly half- volley home.

Fry threw on all three substitutes at half-time, but Leaburn's brave diving header at the far post seemed to have settled the tie. "All the decisions went against us and I think that if the three officials look at a video of the game they will all have red faces," an angry Fry said. "It was a very bad result and we gave away some poor goals."

Edwards diverted a loose ball home and Richard Forsyth brilliantly struck home Birmingham's third with nine minutes remaining to turn up the pressure, and in injury time, Forsyth had an "equaliser" disallowed.

Goals: Hunt (pen 2) 1-0; Edwards (og 18) 1-1; Grant (36) 1-2; Robinson (44) 1-3; Leaburn (70) 1-4; Edwards (75) 2-4; Forsyth (81) 3- 4.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Sansome; Poole, Edwards, Daish, Frain (Cooper, h-t); Hunt (Bowen, h-t), Forsyth, Preece, Donowa; Bull, Claridge (Francis, h-t).

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Salmon; Humphrey, Rufus, Balmer, Stuart; Newton, Bowyer, Mortimer, Robinson; Leaburn, Grant (Nelson, 77). Substitutes not used: Whyte, Ammann (gk).

Referee: P R Richards (Preston).

Bookings: Birmingham City Edwards, Hunt. Charlton Athletic Robinson.

Attendance: 18,539.

Man of the match: Bowyer.