Francis applauds master stroke

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The Independent Football

Invited to sing his team's praises, Trevor Francis preferred to sing his own. Managing a football team is an art, according to Trev, and, what's more, it's an art that at times he reckons he masters.

Invited to sing his team's praises, Trevor Francis preferred to sing his own. Managing a football team is an art, according to Trev, and, what's more, it's an art that at times he reckons he masters.

Knowing which players to play when is the key, said the Birmingham manager, and his master stroke was apparently to put Dele Adebola on the bench, despite poor form this season - and then to bring him on at the right time.

"You all saw the effect of a good substitution today," explained Francis, in a manner which can only be described as smug, before going on to profess his satisfaction with a point from a furiously contested West Midlands derby.

Mmmm. It is of course laughably early to suggest this was a game Birmingham needed to win, but the fact is they should have done, and their supporters will be eyeing the growing gap between their expensively assembled team and the automatic promotion places with some unease.

Barely 90 seconds had elapsed when Bob Taylor controlled Jason van Blerk's crossfield pass and charged at David Holdsworth. The big defender got in a challenge but the ball came back off Taylor's chest as he bullocked on, ending at his feet on the penalty spot with the goalkeeper to beat, a task he carried out with aplomb.

With the half-hour approaching Darren Purse spun on Gary Charles' cross to force a fine save from Brian Jensen. A substantial individual, the Danish goalkeeper rejoices in the nickname "The Beast" but when he came for and missed the resulting corner it seemed he had gifted Birmingham an equaliser.

Instead Holdsworth headed on to the foot of a post, Peter Ndlovu prodded the rebound on to the bar and Albion hoofed clear.

Refusing to panic, Birmingham came out after the break and continued to play some really good football. Martin O'Connor had just volleyed fulsomely against the bar from 25 yards when Adebola, on for the injured Charles, was allowed to dribble across the area before slipping the ball inside for Geoff Horsfield to finish it off, once he had dug the ball out from under his feet.

Yet now, with Albion apparently at their mercy, City, smugly, relaxed. Can't think where they get that trait from.

Goals: Taylor (2) 1-0; Horsfield (61) 1-1.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Jensen; Lyttle, Chambers, Butler, Clement; Van Blerk, Sneekes (Fox, 72), Jordao, McInnes; Taylor (Roberts, 62), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Adamson (gk), Burgess, Oliver.

Birmingham City (4-4-2); Bennett; Eaden, Holdsworth, Purse, Charles (Adebola, 58); Grainger, O'Connor, Sonner, Hughes; Horsfield (Johnson, 88), Ndlovu (Robinson, 86). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Williams.

Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood).

Man of the match: Horsfield.

Attendance: 19,858.

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