FA bans Poole for two more matches

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The Birmingham defender Gary Poole will miss only two more matches through suspension by the Football Association, which ruled him guilty of a physical attack on a referee.

Poole, fined pounds 1,000 on a misconduct charge, has already served half the four-match ban the FA handed him yesterday, because he was suspended immediately when the referee, Richard Poulain, reported the incident which took place in the last minute of Birmingham's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on 1 September. Poole appeared to shove Poulain in the back following the award of a decisive penalty against his team.

The FA took two hours sifting through video and verbal evidence from the referee, the 29-year-old player, his manager, Trevor Francis, and Birmingham's assistant physiotherapist, John Price, who had examined the referee after the game.

Poole, having already sat out two matches, now misses Birmingham's home game against Bradford on Saturday and tonight's fixture at Huddersfield.

Another official, the referee Paul Danson, has admitted he was wrong to send off Sunderland's Paul Stewart against Arsenal at Highbury a week last Saturday. The striker will now escape a one-match suspension.

Danson, who had already sent off the Sunderland defender Martin Scott for two bookable fouls, agreed to review Stewart's dismissal at a weekend seminar with the FA and the League Managers' Association.

Stewart, who had already been booked for handball, repeated the offence, but claimed he was fouled by Arsenal's Steve Bould. Danson told the FA: "It was a genuine misinterpretation on my part."

He has asked the FA to disregard the second yellow card against Stewart, although the first offence will still count for two disciplinary points.

Peter Reid, the Sunderland manager, sent from the touchline for arguing with Danson about Scott's dismissal, has already been charged by the FA with bringing the game into disrepute.

The Manchester United striker Andy Cole had X-rays yesterday to determine the extent of a fracture to his left leg, which was discovered after he broke his right ankle in a challenge by Liverpool's Neil Ruddock in a reserve match. A small crack below his left knee is believed to be the result of wear and tear, and United hope it will heal in the next three months.

England could have three clubs in next season's Champions' League, providing Cole's club, Manchester United, win this season's competition. Uefa, football's European governing body, has issued clarified guidelines governing the 1997-98 tournament. For three Premier League teams to be involved, United would have to lift the Champions' League trophy in May as well as finishing outside the top two in the Premiership.

United would then automatically qualify as reigning European champions, along with the winners and runners-up in the Premiership.