Football : Stockport's cup runs dry

Birmingham City 3 Furlong 29, Devlin 48, Francis 69 Stockport County 1 Angell 82 Attendance: 18,487
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The Independent Online
It was almost a shock for Stockport County to lose this tie, so vibrant has their Cup form been this season. But, having seen off Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Stoke City, before being just four minutes from beating Southampton in midweek, County's Cup run ended at St Andrews, as an experienced Birmingham City side eased through to the fifth round.

A second goal, just after the interval, gave Birmingham the security they needed and drained Stockport of belief. When Kevin Francis, the 6ft 7in former County striker, scored within five minutes of coming on as substitute, Stockport must have realised it was not their day.

Yet, in the early stages, Birmingham were nervous and lost possession several times. The unease might have been greater had Stockport earned due reward for a swift move which saw Brett Angell head Sean Connelly's cross back across the Birmingham goal only for Alun Armstrong's diving header to hit the bar.

Birmingham, disappointed when their new signing Anders Limpar failed a pre-game fitness test, nevertheless dug in and began to get their previously ponderous midfield moving forward. Just before the half-hour Andy Legg's run into the box and left- foot cross brought them a goal, albeit in unconvincing fashion. Paul Furlong went for the cross first, missed it, allowing Jonathan Hunt a swing, which also failed to connect. Then Furlong found the balance to turn the ball home with his right foot.

Nevertheless Angell had won two more headers inside the Birmingham box to underline his threat to Birmingham. Three minutes into the second half, though, another Legg intrusion set up a corner and Paul Devlin scored from the rebound after Gary Breen had flicked Steve Bruce's header against the bar.

Kevin Francis then provided the coup-de-grace with a soaring header from Furlong's cross. Though Birmingham obviously relaxed, Stockport also suddenly sparked into form. The Birmingham keeper Ian Bennett had to produce a splendid save to deny Angell's header before the striker got the goal he deserved, as he poked home Armstrong's half-hit shot from six yards.

Bennett was stretched on two more occasions - by another Angell header and a curling shot from Lee Todd - as Stockport served notice to Southampton that their Coca-Cola tie is not over yet. Sadly, this one was.

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