Football: Pollet opens his Wolves account as Birmingham injury- list grows
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Birmingham City 1
Saturday 18 December 1999
The players in the mustard and black were taking part in their third match in six days and it showed, while Birmingham lacked the attacking prowess to take advantage.
The final score was right but Trevor Francis, who seldom enthuses, left the dugout with a particularly grim look on his face. He barely acknowledged his Wolves counterpart, Colin Lee, as he walked to the changing room to assess any further damages to his already shattered side.
It was an odd match in more ways than one. It was a derby, and one that in the past has inspired many passionate performances, but last night it was flat. Interest was so low that Birmingham returned 1,200 tickets from their allocation of 3,000. Many fans seemed to have preferred to watch on TV.
The opening goal fell to Birmingham when Martin O'Connor, the Blues captain, found himself running for goal with the Wolves defenders trailing in his wake. He was tackled inside the box by keeper Michael Oakes, but the ball bounced free for Bryan Hughes to side-foot home.
Birmingham looked good for their lead, but Hughes went on to spend most of the second half exchanging sly kicks, pushes, digs and insults with Wolves' veteran defender Keith Curle, who was eventually booked.
The home side equalised after 40 minutes during one of many goalmouth scrambles. Ade Akinbiyi nodded home from close range after Andy Sinton had outwitted the Blues defence by crossing from a seemingly hopeless position out on the left wing. Keeper Kevin Poole failed to deal with it properly under strong pressure from Michael Branch, and Akinbiyi headed home his 10th goal in 19 appearances.
Wolves might have had a penalty when Simon Osborn appeared to be tripped in the area by Gary Rowett in a heated second half of five bookings, four of them against Birmingham.
The winner came from Frenchman Ludovic Pollet, who scored his first goal in English football in the 63rd minute.
Pollet, a bargain early season buy from Le Havre, climbed above his markers and keeper Poole to power home a priceless header from Sinton's left wing corner.
The final 20 minutes were only brought to life in the final seconds of injury time by a superb but wide shot from Birmingham's Martin Grainger.
After the final whistle, Kevin Muscat, Wolves' Australian international, gestured in front of the cold and annoyed away fans. This annoyed the Birmingham players. Words were exchanged and Muscat was escorted off the pitch by stewards and the referee.
Victory pushed Wolves closer to the play-off places and stretched their unbeaten home run to three-and-a-half months, while Blues are struggling to stay with the top six.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Oakes; Muscat, Pollet, Curle, Naylor; Bazeley, Emblen, Osborn, Sinton; Branch (Taylor, 83), Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: Stowell, Robinson, Corica, Sedgley.
Birmingham City: Poole; Charlton, Johnson, Rowett, Bass; Grainger, O'Connor, Hyde (Holland, 85), Gill (Robinson, h-t); Hughes, Purse (Dyson, h-t).Substitutes not used: Bennett, Newton.
Referee: T Leake (Darwen).
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