Savage spot-kick sinks Lincoln

Birmingham City 3 - Lincoln City 1
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The Independent Online

It took almost three-quarters of the match for Birmingham to break down some determined defence by their League Two opponents, but they finally established Premiership superiority at St Andrew's, where Jesper Gronkjaer's first goal for the Midlands club opened the door to a comfortable passage to the third round of the Carling Cup.

It took almost three-quarters of the match for Birmingham to break down some determined defence by their League Two opponents, but they finally established Premiership superiority at St Andrew's, where Jesper Gronkjaer's first goal for the Midlands club opened the door to a comfortable passage to the third round of the Carling Cup.

Two goals in the space of a minute then put the outcome beyond any doubt before Simon Yeo raised a belated cheer from the 1,500 visiting supporters by converting a penalty.

Lincoln could at least deposit around £50,000 in the bank from their share of gate receipts, even if their suspicion that the Premiership side might not be fully tuned in to the competition at this early stage turned out to be wishful thinking.

The injured Mikael Forssell, the suspended Damien Johnson and the rested Kenny Cunningham and Muzzy Izzet were missing, but the teamsheet included Dwight Yorke and Emile Heskey up front and Darren Anderton and Gronkjaer on the flanks, not to mention Robbie Savage in midfield.

Against this line-up, the 87th of the 92 league clubs looked to be on a hiding to nothing but instead produced a well-organised display that did credit to manager Keith Alexander, whose side have reached the play-offs two years in a row.

Headers from Heskey, twice, and Yorke had failed to breach the Lincoln rearguard in the first half and Heskey and Stephen Clemence passed up more chances early in the second, but the breakthrough for the Premiership team came in the 64th minute. Anderton, starting his first game since February, put a fine cross-field ball into the path of Gronkjaer, whose drive into the bottom left-hand corner was cleanly hit. He did appear to handle as he controlled the pass, however.

Birmingham then struck twice within 60 seconds to take full control. First the persistence of Mario Melchiot, as goalkeeper Alan Marriott and centre-back Paul Morgan got their lines crossed, set up substitute Clinton Morrison for an easy goal, then Savage fired home from the penalty spot after Yorke had been fouled.

After winning only once so far in the Premiership, the Birmingham manager Steve Bruce acknowledged the importance of the performance, even in a mismatch. "Even big players need confidence and you could see it coming back after we had scored the first goal," he said.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot (Dunn, 83), Martin Taylor, Upson, Gray; Anderton, Savage (Clapham, 79), Clemence, Gronkjaer; Heskey (Morrison, 67), Yorke. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Izzet.

Lincoln City (5-2-3): Marriott; Bloomer, McAuley, Morgan, Futcher, Peat (Taylor-Fletcher, 68); Butcher, Gain; Green (Toner, 84), McCombe (Richardson, 73), Yeo. Substitutes not used: Rayner (gk), Sandwith.

Referee: E Evans (Lancs).

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