Birmingham to pay price for missiles

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The Independent Online


Birmingham City were bracing themselves for the Association's wrath last night when it was revealed that a snooker ball and coins were thrown onto the pitch during Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup semi-final first leg defeat by Leeds United. Playing a match behind closed doors would seem to be the least they can expect.

Initially the FA had been inclined to be lenient when it appeared that only one coin had been used as a missile - an incident defused by the unhurt target, Gary McAllister, making light of it. After consulting the referee, Keith Cooper, and the FA's match observer, however, Lancaster Gate's attitude hardened.

"It is clear we are not necessarily dealing about the actions of just one fan," Steve Double, an FA spokesman said. "There will be a thorough investigation into what was a very unpleasant incident. If we are talking about a snooker ball being thrown onto the pitch then there was clearly a serious risk to the safety of the players and officials."

The violence was not confined to St Andrews, where police arrested 13 people and ejected two. Leeds revealed that a coach carrying club directors was attacked a mile from the ground after the game. Bricks were thrown through the windows, showering glass on passengers, although none of them was hurt.

The latest outbreak of crowd misbehaviour at Birmingham came nine days after an FA inquiry found the First Division side guilty of two misconduct charges after their game with Millwall on 4 November. Birmingham were then told any further outbreaks this year could result in them having to play a home match behind closed doors.

While police in the West Midlands were conducting inquiries, their counterparts in West Yorkshire have ensured the second leg of the semi-final will kick- off at noon on 25 February, four hours earlier than the clubs had wanted. It means that the game will not now be screened live by ITV Sport.

Jimmy Mullen, manager at Burnley since 1991, left the Second Division club yesterday in response to a demonstration during Saturday's 1-0 reverse at home to Crewe - their fourth successive League defeat.His assistant , Clive Middlemass , becomes caretaker manager