Football: Wallace's lucky strike gives Stoke a lift

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The Independent Online
Stoke City 1 Bimingham City 0

Stoke City jumped into fifth place in the Nationwide First Division last night thanks to a somewhat fortunate goal by Ray Wallace. They were under pressure for much of the second half but the visitors' final ball rarely threatened Mark Prudhoe in the Stoke goal.

After an uneventful opening where the only sniff of a chance went to Birmingham thanks to Paul Devlin's tenacity, the home side took the lead after 18 minutes. Mark Stein appeared to mis-hit his cross-shot and as the ball careered across the area it was diverted in by Wallace, the amount of design and accident known only to the scorer.

Neither goalkeeper was troubled for some time and despite the bitter cold the pitch could not be blamed for the lack of action. It had a little extra bounce than usual but it was the players losing their touch, rather than their footing, that spoiled the match.

Trevor Francis, the Birmingham manager, brought on Paul Furlong in place of Andy Legg at half-time and the tall striker, a former team-mate of Stein at Chelsea, caused an early scare but the cross eluded him. He did get his head to Martin Grainger's looping cross from the left but it lacked power and direction and went straight to Prudhoe.

It was a much livelier opening to the second half with Birmingham especially being much sharper. However, as the snow began to settle, the game reverted to its first half standard with possession being frittered away.

Stoke City: Prudhoe, Pickering, Griffin, Sigurdsson, Whittle, Forsyth, McMahon, Wallace, Stein, Sheron, Kavanagh. Substitutes not used: Macari, Devlin, MacKenzie.

Birmingham City: Bennett, Brown, Grainger, Bruce, Johnson, O'Connor, Devlin, Tait, Legg (Furlong, h-t), Horne, Bowen (Bass, 86). Substitute not used: Holland.

Referee: R D Furnandiz (Doncaster).

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