Football: Adebola sparks the rampage

Birmingham City 4 Adebola 24,62, Ndlovu 50, Grainger 88 West Bromwich Albion 0 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 29,060
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The Independent Online
BIRMINGHAM CITY must wish they could play a West Midlands derby every week. After beating their local rivals West Bromwich Albion by a comfortable 3-1 scoreline earlier in the season, they completed the double with such ease that it made a mockery of the two places that separated the teams at the beginning of the day. Two divisions might have been nearer the mark.

The ease with which Dele Adebola and Peter Ndlovu tore through West Brom's defence also confirmed Birmingham's status not only as play-off certainties but also kept alive their aspirations of finishing second in Division One and earning automatic promotion. However, West Brom, who started the day in sixth position, proved that on this form their play-off hopes are as thin as the paper that league tables are printed on.

Yet a bright start by West Brom saw the Italian teenager Enzo Maresca force a save out of Kevin Poole in the fourth minute. However, their heads dropped after the first goal and their manager, Denis Smith, had some harsh words for his team afterwards.

"We only turned up for 20 minutes and that was it," Smith said. "We had the opportunity to go ahead and I feel sorry for the fans. Some players have got to look at themselves and ask if they want to stay sixth. We didn't compete enough."

West Brom's problems started in the 24th minute when Ndlovu found Adebola inside the penalty box and his turn brought enough space to find the corner of Phil Whitehead's net.

That, Trevor Francis, City's manager, admitted later, was the boost his team needed after a nervous start. Thereafter it was one-way traffic although West Brom, more by luck than judgement, prevented Birmingham going further ahead before half-time. Gary Rowett had a header cleared off the line and then sent an effort over the bar from six yards before Ndlovu, with an open goal before him, hit the post.

He made amends five minutes after the break, when he controlled Simon Charlton's sublime 50-yard pass, drifted into the penalty area and dispatched a shot high into the net.

That goal, bizarrely, spurred West Brom into action and as they poured forward to try and save their six-game unbeaten run, Kevin Kilbane found Fabian DeFreitas, who lobbed the goalkeeper only to see his shot hit the post. Within a minute, Birmingham had sealed the game with another outstanding individual effort. Adebola received the ball 40 yards out, ran the length of the pitch and scored his second, slipping the ball under Whitehead.

All that was left was for Martin Grainger to administer the last rites with a tap-in two minutes from time after Graham Hyde's strong run to the by-line.