Football: Orlygsson adds artistic overlay

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The Independent Online
Stoke City. . . . . . 2

Birmingham City. . . .1

STOKE continue to make light of autumn's dual defection by Lou Macari and Mark Stein. Victory over Birmingham yesterday - their seventh straight success at the Victoria Ground - took last season's Second Division champions to the dizzy heights of fifth in the First.

Now under Joe Jordan's more phlegmatic managership, Stoke still pay little heed to the finer arts exemplified by their watching president, Sir Stanley Matthews, although Thorvaldur Orlygsson proved an elegant exception as Barry Fry's new charges were beaten for the second time in three matches under his control.

Orlygsson, an Icelander who is known on the terraces as 'Toddy', was hardly renowned for his hot striking streaks at Nottingham Forest, who freed him last summer. But since the transfer of the prolific Stein to Chelsea, he has taken on the mantle of marksman, setting Stoke on their way with his seventh goal in 15 matches.

When Birmingham equalised early in the second half through another player whose origins should have made him at home in the freezing conditions, the Canadian forward Paul Peschisolido, Fry scented a repeat of the win he supervised for Southend at Stoke in September. Instead it was Lee Sandford, a defender, who claimed the points for the hosts.

Blues, favouring a passing game against Stoke's more direct approach, began brightly only to fall behind on 13 minutes. Nigel Gleghorn, one of three ex-Birmingham men opposing them, sent Orlygsson clear. The slight midfielder held off two defenders with embarrassing ease before slotting the ball past Kevin Miller from 12 yards.

With shirts numbered 23, 24, 27, 28 and 30 on the pitch following two tactical substitutions, Fry was clearly intent on attacking in numbers after the interval. For a time they played a 3-2-5 formation and as Stoke struggled to adapt, their former player Kenny Lowe sent Peschisolido through the same channel as Orlygsson and he converted his first goal since 3 October.

Curiously, considering that Fry had expected Stoke to tire after their 5am return from an Anglo-Italian trip last Thursday, Birmingham did not go for the jugular. Orlygsson regained ascendancy and Stoke wrapped up the points 21 minutes from time. Following a corner needlessly conceded by Richard Dryden, Miller punched Gleghorn's flag-kick weakly to Sandford, who struck his first goal of the season from six yards.

Fry was left complaining about his 'Rag-Arse Rovers'. Jordan, equally typically, considered it three more points towards safety.

Stoke City (5-3-2): Marshall; Clarkson, Sandford, Cranson, Overson, Cowan; Orlygsson, Foley, Gleghorn; Bannister, Regis. Substitutes not used: Carruthers, Gynn, Prudhoe (gk).

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Miller; Fenwick (Barnett, h/t), Dryden, Whyte, Cooper; Wallace (Shutt, h/t), Lowe, Harding, McMinn; Saville, Peschisolido. Substitute not used: Bennett (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Pontypridd).