Francis swings battle of Cities

Birmingham City 2 Manchester City 0
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The Independent Online
A tale of two Cities left neither harbouring any great expectations last night. Birmingham's victory, which simultaneously ended Manchester City's unbeaten run in the First Division under Frank Clark, at least lifted the spectre of relegation from St Andrew's.

It was a timely success in more ways than one for Trevor Francis. The Birmingham manager went into the game with the dubious privilege of a vote of confidence from David Sullivan.

His future was safe, the co-owner said, but they needed "a flurry of wins" to persuade the public of their potential to gain promotion next year. Three in four games qualifies as an encouraging start.

The crowd rose to cheer Birmingham off the pitch, reserving a special roar for the manager's namesake, Kevin Francis. The giant striker earned the penalty which broke the stalest of stalemates, heading a second goal for good measure, but their acclaim surely owed more to the relief of seeing their side climb the table than with the quality of the performance.

The first half was eminently forgettable. For everyone, that is, except Paul Beesley, the Manchester centre-back who was carried off after 10 minutes with a badly damaged ankle. Birmingham had neither the guile nor the penetration to exploit any uncertainty as the visitors regrouped.

Which made the dramatic start to the second period all the more startling. Sixty seconds after Birmingham had one penalty appeal refused after a Manchester hand deflected Jason Bowen's volley, Kevin Francis went sprawling under Eddie McGoldrick's challenge. Paul Furlong scored emphatically from the spot.

A disappointing Manchester created only one real opening, Uwe Rosler's header from a Lee Crooks cross forcing an agile save from Ian Bennett midway through the second half.

With 21 minutes remaining, however, Kevin Francis came off his marker to head a surprisingly simple goal from Martin Grainger's corner.

Clark, tasting defeat for the first time in 10 League matches since taking over at the turn of the year, refreshingly declined to complain about the penalty award he felt had "changed the game''. He added: "We're not quite safe yet, but we've not given up on the play-offs either." He could also have been speaking for Birmingham: both clubs looking destined for a mid-table finish unless they can embark a sustained winning streak.

Birmingham City (3-4-1-2): Bennett; Barnett, Bruce, Ablett; Brown, Tait, O'Connor, Grainger; Bowen; Francis, Furlong (Robinson, 90). Substitutes not used: Johnson, Limpar.

Manchester City (3-5-2): Wright; Brightwell, Symons, Beesley (Crooks, 10); Summerbee, Lomas, McGoldrick, Horlock, Ingram; Rosler, Dickov (Kavalashvili, 68). Substitute not used: Heaney.

Referee: J Kirkby (Sheffield).

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