Football: Roberts fits bill

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The Independent Online
Birmingham City. . . . . .0

Wolverhampton Wanderers. .4

Darren Roberts, a former door-fitter deputising in the Wolves attack for the injured Andy Mutch, followed Alan Shearer into the record books yesterday by scoring a hat-trick on his full Football League debut.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Steve Bull failed to find the net, although many home supporters considered his a more sinister influence on the outcome. In the 17th minute, with Birmingham already a goal down, the Wolves warhorse lunged for a ball that was 40-60 in Andy Gosney's favour, leaving the goalkeeper with a debilitating shoulder injury.

Bull was booked but Gosney did not reappear after the interval, by which time Wolves had added three goals. With the competition not allowing for a substitute keeper as in the Premier League, Nigel Gleghorn took over and enjoyed the slender satisfaction of not conceding a goal during an anticlimactic second half.

Terry Cooper, the Birmingham manager, declined to make Gosney's misfortune an excuse for Roberts's benefit afternoon. 'It had no effect,' he said. Roberts, 'over the moon' and clutching the match ball, compounded the misery of Blues' fans by revealing that he was born locally and supports Aston Villa.

Now 22, he had returned to Molineux, where Graham Turner released him as a teenager, for pounds 20,000 from Burton Albion earlier this year. His previous three- goal feat had been for a club called Armitage in the Walsall Senior Cup, and it can scarcely have come more easily than this one.

Three of Wolves' goals followed Birmingham's failure to close down players crossing from the visitors' right. Roberts headed the first, rising above Darren Rogers in the 13th minute, and stroked the second past Gosney in the 38th minute after the same defender had played the ball into his path under pressure from Bull.

Sixty seconds later Keith Downing prodded Wolves' third at the far post, and on the stroke of half-time Roberts glanced in the fourth. While Darran Rowbotham hit a post in an improved second-half display by Birmingham, Turner's side missed three simple chances to pile on the agony. In third place in the First Division, unbeaten and yet to concede an away goal, they were hardly complaining.

Birmingham City: Gosney (Sale, h/t); Clarkson, Frain, Peer (Rodgerson, 65), Rogers, Matthewson, Donowa, Tait, Sturridge, Gleghorn, Rowbotham.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Stowell; Ashley, Edwards (Thompson, 56), Downing, Madden, Mountfield, Birch, Cook, Bull, Roberts (Dennison, 70), Rankine.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

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