Football: Wolves undone by Devlin's double

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The Independent Online
PHIL SHAW

Birmingham City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Paul Devlin, valued at pounds 350,000 in a double transfer from Notts County last week, struck twice at St Andrew's to give Birmingham a well deserved first League victory of 1996 last night and condemn Wolves to their first away defeat in three months under Mark McGhee's managership.

Wolves, who arrived harbouring ambitions of a play-off place, even missed a penalty six minutes from time, Bart Griemink making a stunning save from Andy Thompson after Jason Bowen had handled.

Birmingham's success was all the more surprising in view of the recent reversal in the fortunes of the two local rivals. In the programme, recycled from their postponed meeting on New Year's Day, Birmingham stood third in the First Division and Wolves 20th, whereas they went into last night's match 16th and 14th respectively.

Only two of the 14 Birmingham players listed were on duty, and Barry Fry made Paul Barnes, the former York striker, his 42nd first-teamer this season. Wolves' Neil Emblen made Barnes welcome with an under-hit back- pass in the 10th minute. The newcomer intercepted, but his shot struck the legs of Mike Stowell.

Emblen's evening deteriorated further in the 28th minute when he handled a booming drive by Andy Legg. Devlin, like Legg a veteran of two Birmingham games after their dual defection from Meadow Lane, beat Stowell with an assurance that suggested he was unaware of the club's spot-kick jinx.

Wolves' woes continued five minutes before half-time. Barnes crossed low to the near post, where the diminutive Devlin stole in ahead of the gold shirts to score.

Having had only one goal attempt in the first half - a Steve Bull effort that sailed over with Griemink scrambling to recover his ground - Wolves might have been expected to dominate after the interval.

Their initial failure to do so prompted McGhee to send on Steve Froggatt, who received a welcome in keeping with his status as an ex-Aston Villa player. The substitute's service from the left wing gave Wolves fresh impetus. They ought to have halved the deficit in the 63rd minute, but Darren Ferguson's header from a Froggatt corner looped over the crossbar.

Late pressure by Wolves produced the game's second penalty. Thompson struck it well but Griemink was equal to his shot, and the Dutchman enhanced his growing reputation with another fine save from Bull which confirmed that this was Birmingham's night.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Griemink; Bass, Breen, Johnson, Frain; Hunt (Bowen, 73), Tait, Samways, Legg; Barnes (Forsyth, 65), Devlin. Substitute not used: Cooper.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Stowell; Young, Law (Williams, 66), Emblen; Atkins (Froggatt, 57), Corica, Osborn, Ferguson, Thompson; Goodman, Bull. Substitute not used: Venus.

Referee: E Lomas (Manchester).

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