Football: Mutch relief for bold Wolves

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The Independent Online
Wolverhampton Wanderers. .2

Birmingham City. . . . . .1

TWO GOALS in the last five minutes brought hard-running Wolves a deserved win in this hectic Midlands derby after Birmingham's slight Paul Tait seemed likely to be remembered for more than his football.

The fair, pale Tait, aged 21 but looking 17, is hardly the stuff of Edwardian melodrama yet until Wolves' last successful offensive he had been the principal character.

After five minutes of Wolves pressure he had delivered a two- footed tackle on Paul Birch that sent the Wolves winger off on a stretcher; it was an awful foul and Tait, a former Birmingham apprentice who has himself been out of the game for 10 months with a broken leg, was lucky to get only a yellow card.

The crowd, huddled in a cold wind blowing across a partly rebuilt and bleak Molineux, forgot to shiver as Tait went on to compound his offence by scoring on the half-hour.

John Gayle forced his way down the byline, and with Wolves awaiting the cross slipped the ball to Tait, by the near post, who flicked it into the goal.

Wolves supporters' fury was communicated to the team: Paul Cook hit a post from 35 yards and the second half began with Andy Mutch hitting the goalkeeper from close range before Andy Gosney had to save from Derek Mountfield.

The Birmingham defence, the only one in the world, insisted a colleague, to employ both a sweeper and the offside trap, battled on valiantly but the pressure was relentless. Robbie Dennison hit the bar with a free-kick after Paul Fitzpatrick could have been sent off for a professional foul; Steve Bull then hit the angle to give Wolves a third strike on the woodwork.

By the last quarter Birmingham seemed not only to have survived but were prepared to flourish again, producing the neatest football of the match, which provided two further opportunities for Tait. Dave (have gloves, will travel) Beasant blocked one shot from six yards, after an initial fumble, and then had to go full stretch to palm away another.

Five minutes from time Dennison gave Mark Burke a glimpse of Birmingham's goal on the edge of the box and the low shot crept inside Gosney's near post.

Three minutes later Dennison, who had initially appeared only as Birch's replacement, provided a long cross that was met by Mutch's well-timed header and, for almost the first time in the match, the blue blanket cover had gone.

Wolves had the lead, justice was done, but in a match that owed more to passion and effort than skill, Birmingham, in parts, could claim to have played the better football.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Beasant; Burke, Edwards, Rankine, Mountfield, Madden, Downing, Cook, Bull, Mutch, Birch (Dennison, 9). Substitute not used: Roberts.

Birmingham City: Gosney; Clarkson, Potter, Fitzpatrick, Hicks, Matthewson, Peschisolido, Gayle, Rennie, Tait, Frain. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Fenwick.

Referee: D Frampton (Poole).