Football: Peschisolido sets pace

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The Independent Online
Birmingham City. . . . . . .2

Wolverhampton Wanderers. . .2

BY half-time in yesterday's pulsating First Division derby at St Andrews, when Wolves were halfway towards repeating their 4-0 romp of 11 months ago, Terry Cooper's programme promise read like a hapless hostage to fortune. 'One thing's for sure,' he said, 'it's not going to happen today.'

Remarkably, within seven minutes of the re-start, Birmingham had vindicated their manager. Goals by Paul Peschisolido and Andy Saville wiped out the lead Mark Venus and Geoff Thomas had given Wolves, bringing Cooper dancing from his dug-out with a vengeance.

The transformation would have been complete had Peschisolido not wearily overrun the ball 12 minutes from time with just Mike Stowell to beat. The 5ft 6in striker, a Canadian international of Italian parentage, was entitled to be tired after an afternoon in which his pace highlighted why Wolves remain willing to pay pounds 1.75m for Queen's Park Ranger's Darren Peacock.

Peschisolido's man-of-the-match award, a bottle of champagne thrust upon him as he was being helped off with slight concussion a minute from time, was not without irony. The pounds 25,000 recruit from Toronto Blizzard stood head and shoulders, if only figuratively speaking, above players who cost more than 20 times as much.

Graham Turner's pounds 2.4m summer spree had looked amply justified when Wolves scored twice in 45 seconds, 10 minutes before the interval. Derek Mountfield, at last venturing forward after a fierce opening spell by Birmingham, fed the overlapping Venus. The left-back, sent off eight days earlier, deceived Kevin Miller on his near post with a cross-cum-shot.

Venus envy was still raging on the terraces when Thomas controlled Paul Birch's long pass on his left foot and scored with his right as Miller rushed out. It was a finish worthy of the pounds 800,000 Wolves paid Crystal Palace, and of Thomas's England pedigree.

Turner complained afterwards that Wolves had enough experience to have killed the contest. But Peschisolido was like a one-man swarm, and he revived Birmingham's hopes with a 50th minute tap-in after Stowell had parried his first attempt. Two minutes later he turned a defender before crossing for Saville to strike the equaliser.

Cooper, meanwhile, highlighted what could prove a major impediment to the region's promotion prospects. 'It's going to be hard for a Midlands club to get into the top two,' he said. 'Everyone's going to take points off each other, so to finish up there you'll have to be outstanding.'

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Miller; Hiley, Frain, Whyte, Dryden; McMinn, Mardon, Parris (Donowa, 67), Smith; Peschisolido (Moulden, 90), Saville. Substitute not used: Steadman (gk).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Rankine, Venus, Shirtliff, Mountfield; Birch, Cook, Thomas, Keen; Bull, Kelly (Regis, 73). Substitutes not used: Blades, Felgate (gk).

Referee: K A Cooper (Swindon).

Millwall's manager, Mick McCarthy, described his team as 'abysmal and hopeless' after they lost their first home match at the New Den 4-1 to Southend United yesterday. John Kerr gave the home side a 22nd-minute lead, but Jason Lee marked his debut by equalising after 35 minutes. Ricky Otto put Southend into the lead after 55 minutes, while Tommy Mooney and Andy Ansah added further second-half goals.