Football: Sneekes deepens City misery

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West Bromwich Albion 2 Birmingham City 0

West Bromwich climbed to mid-table safety with this convincing defeat of their neighbours, Birmingham City, at The Hawthorns yesterday. Richard Sneekes and Ian Hamilton were the marksmen as Albion won only their fifth game at home this season.

City, who were chasing their third successive win, were always second best, although their new pounds 800,000 signing Bryan Hughes was denied a goal on his debut by the woodwork.

Birmingham's cause was not helped when their captain, Steve Bruce, had to bow out of the action after just eight minutes. Bruce, substituted three minutes later by Michael Johnson, suffered concussion and a badly swollen eye after being elbowed in the face by Albion's Andy Hunt.

In the 16th minute Albion prised open City for the first time when a marvellous long ball from Paul Agnew caught the defender Gary Ablett on the wrong foot. Sneekes raced through to slot a low shot past the advancing Ian Bennett, with Johnson just failing in his last-gasp attempt to sweep the ball off the line.

It was 2-0 in the 49th minute when the hard-working Sneekes chipped a corner into the heart of the City defence, where it was headed down by Bob Taylor. The ball fell to midfielder Hamilton and he turned to fire a close-range shot into the back of the Birmingham net.

City, who continue to hover close to the relegation zone, were always poor and they never looked like finding a way past Albion's on-loan goalkeeper, Alan Miller. Paul Furlong did have a well-struck shot from 20 yards saved by Miller, who produced another fine effort in the dying minutes, when he dived to hold a shot at the far post from Dave Barnett.

Hughes's near-miss came in the 55th minute when a header by the former Wrexham player from Paul Devlin's cross hit the top of the crossbar.

In the end, Albion thoroughly deserved their third victory since Ray Harford took over. A small number of visiting fans were escorted from the Smethwick End by police after an outbreak of fighting.

Goals: Sneekes (16) 1-0; Hamilton (49) 2-0.

West Bromwich Albion: Miller; Holmes, Agnew (Coldicott, 72), Sneekes, Murphy, Burgess, Donovan, Smith, Taylor (Butler, 86), Hunt, Hamilton. Substitute not used: Mardon.

Birmingham City: Bennett; Brown (Hughes, 53), Grainger, Bruce (Johnson, 11), Ablett, Barnett, O'Connor, Tait, Francis, Furlong (Devlin, 53), Bowen.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Booked: Albion: Sneekes. City: Ablett, Francis, Furlong.

Man of the match: Sneekes.

Attendance: 16,125.