Football: City's derby joy

Click to follow
West Bromwich Albion. . . 2

Birmingham City. . . . . .4

BARRY FRY'S improbable dream of rescuing Birmingham from what had seemed almost certain relegation gained credibility last night when victory in a frenetic Midlands derby at The Hawthorns extended City's escape attempt to five wins in seven matches.

The result takes Fry's team out of the bottom three of the First Division for the first time since early February. They have only two matches remaining, but their position is considerably better than it was before 26 March, when their defeat of Middlesbrough ended a run of 14 League games without a win.

The Albion outlook is now worse: they have three games left but only relegated Peterborough below them. They began impressively yesterday and such was their dominance of the first half-hour that they might have led by more than Kevin Donovan's fine 23rd- minute, 18-yard strike.

But a fortunate equaliser by Steve Claridge lifted Birmingham, who then seized the initiative with two goals in 11 minutes just after the interval. Lou Donowa scored with a 40- yard lob as Stuart Naylor, who had raced from his area to make a headed clearance, tried to scramble back. Then Andy Saville pounced on a mistake by Naylor, who dropped a shot by Neil Doherty.

Albion switched to 4-2-4 and were back in contention when Daryl Burgess headed home a free-kick from the excellent Lee Ashcroft and Birmingham had to withstand more pressure before Claridge waltzed round Naylor with a minute left to make the points safe.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Naylor; Parsley, Mardon, Burgess, Darton; Ashcroft, Hamilton, Donovan, Smith (Strodder, 63); Taylor, Hunt. Substitutes not used: McNally, Lange (gk).

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Bennett; Hiley, Whyte, Daish, Frain; Donowa, Ward, Willis, Doherty (Shutt, 82); Claridge, Saville (Harding, 69). Substitutes not used: Harding, Steadman (gk).

Referee: J Key (Rotherham).