Football: Furlong wins by a distance

Ipswich Town 0 Birmingham City 1 Furlong pen 10 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 19,758
Click to follow
IPSWICH FANCY themselves to reach the Premiership after the heartbreak of three consecutive play-off failures but surrendered their unbeaten record yesterday as an equally ambitious Birmingham set out their credentials.

The second city's second fiddles, desperate to regain parity with Aston Villa, go second in the First Division table with Ipswich dropping from first to third. They led through a 10th-minute penalty - a contentious one - and thereafter mounted a rearguard that Ipswich could not penetrate. The top scorer David Johnson saw a goal disallowed and another effort cleared off the line but, those moments apart, the visiting goalkeeper Kevin Poole was protected superbly.

The penalty decision did not please the home crowd, who believed that Stan Lazaridis had gained the kick by running into Manuel Thetis and then going to ground in hope. But to the referee, Barry Knight, it looked like a body-check on the Ipswich defender's part and he would hear nothing of any protests.

George Burley, the Ipswich manager, was unimpressed. "I've watched it again on video and it was not a penalty," he said. His opposite number, Trevor Francis - surprise, surprise - saw it as entirely correct.

Paul Furlong scored, sending Richard Wright the wrong way, and thereafter Mr Knight was the least popular person on the ground, more so when he denied Johnson a 47th-minute equaliser, although this time his assistant on the line shared the blame. Scowcroft headed a loose ball towards goal and his team-mate had three Birmingham men close to him when he hooked it home but he was ruled offside none the less.

Birmingham were set on defending their advantage and did so impressively. At the end, Francis ran on to the field to congratulate each of his players in turn. "Ipswich are a good side but we had a plan and it is very pleasing when it comes off," he said. "Not many sides will leave here with three points this season."

Francis spoke of having "taken the game to Ipswich" but his side spent much of it packing behind the ball in numbers, crowding out the home side's three-man forward line. Play consequently was scrappy and chances limited, although Birmingham might have put themselves out of reach after 51 minutes when Furlong met a cross from Lazaridis with a header that thumped against the bar with Wright beaten.

It was a tough match for Mr Knight to control. After pulling up Martyn O'Connor for a foul on Scowcroft he had a mess to sort out when Darren Purse and Richard Naylor clashed off the ball, the Birmingham players arguing there had been a head-butt. None of the officials saw enough to make a judgement.

For the last 20 minutes the Birmingham goal was besieged. Scowcroft had a header deflected against the woodwork and Ipswich won corner after corner against defenders happy to hack the ball anywhere so long as it was to safety.

With nine minutes left, Johnson, chasing a long punt, headed the ball over the top of the advancing Kevin Poole but Purse chased back to intercept. Ipswich would come no closer to scoring.