Football: Buried by Adebola

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BIRMINGHAM CITY for the Premiership? Conceivable. But could Bury follow Barnsley or Bolton and have a spin in the top flight? Possibly so if, sustained by a remarkable goalkeeping performance by the evergreen Bruce Grobbelaar, who joined them for one game, they can battle as hard with a full team as they did for half an hour with 10 men at St Andrews yesterday.

An impressive 3-0 win over Swindon earlier in the week had taken Bury to third place, while Birmingham had slipped beneath them after losing for the first time this season, away to Bradford City. But Bury had a midweek problem which was to find a goalkeeping replacement for Dean Kiely, who was wanted by the Republic of Ireland. Neil Warnock's answer was to ring 40-year-old Grobbelaar, ex-Liverpool, and more recently a part-timer with Chesham.

For someone with a reputation for performing the bizarre, Grobbelaar, in his white boots, started by seeming to live up to his past, by allowing City to score a strange goal after 19 minutes. A stumbling Chris Lucketti knocked the ball towards Grobbelaar, who failed to hold it. Dele Adebola collected it instead and forced Bury to concede their first goal of the season.

If Grobbelaar was in need of practice, he certainly got it. After feeling the slipstreams of shots by Nicky Forster and Michael Johnson, he had to be perfectly positioned to block Steve Robinson's gale of a drive.

Considering their position, Bury's first-half performance was mundane and they were grateful to Grobbelaar for allowing them to reach half-time only one goal behind following his deflection over the bar of another tingling shot from Forster.

Adebola's inability to appear in the second half following a leg injury allowed Andrew Johnson to make his debut but cost Birmingham height and power at the front. Bury were thankful for that, although their relief was short-lived since, on the hour, Andy Woodward was pursuing Robinson and felled him from behind. The referee had a perfect view and sent off the Bury player.

Grobbelaar's involvement became even greater, splendidly diverting a low shot from Bryan Hughes wide of a post which earlier had saved him as Martin O'Connor's blast struck it hard.

For a team with numerical advantage and high ambition, Birmingham can hardly have been satisfied to end the game still frustrated in their efforts to take it completely out of the reach of a Bury side that fought gallantly for a recovery. In spite of the goal, they were well served by an ageing extrovert who in the last seconds tipped over another goal-bound shot by Andrew Johnson.