Glover gives Francis that sinking feeling

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The Independent Online
Birmingham City 1 Port Vale 2

Birmingham, who are to float on the stock market next month, remain anchored uncomfortably close to the First Division basement after Port Vale came from behind to inflict a fifth successive defeat on them yesterday.

Since Birmingham have now lost their last four home games, including the FA Cup capitulation to Wrexham, the position of their manager, Trevor Francis, is sure to come under scrutiny this week.

The Potteries club had previously won only once at St Andrew's, in an FA Cup tie 33 years ago, and had not beaten Birmingham away in the League since 1898, when the home side were still Small Heath. Vale's victory was the seventh on their travels - a record bettered only by Wolves - and revived hopes of a play-off place.

Yet Birmingham had enjoyed the ideal start, taking a deserved early lead after Paul Devlin surprised Dean Glover with a burst of pace on the right. Having reached the Vale by-line, Devlin was brought down by the defender before rising to score his 16th goal of the season from the spot.

Glover, adamant that he had played the ball, would later be amply compensated, but it was his tireless captain, Andy Porter, who quickly assuaged Vale's sense of injustice. Seizing on a poor clearance by Martin Grainger, the midfielder despatched a fierce angled drive beyond Ian Bennett from 20 yards.

Tony Naylor ought to have rewarded Vale's slicker passing game after being sent clear by Jon McCarthy. The striker's loose final touch allowed Bennett to save, but the keeper was helpless shortly after half-time. From a corner by Steve Guppy, Glover stooped to score with a glancing header that brushed Naylor's back on its way in.

In desperate late Birmingham pressure, Steve Bruce headed against a post while Paul Musselwhite made a spectacular double save to deny Paul Furlong and Nicky Forster. As John Rudge, the Vale manager, celebrated a prestigious double, Francis was left to bemoan a crisis of confidence - and trust that he will be around to spend the cash raised by the share flotation.

Goals: Devlin pen (7) 1-0; Porter (15) 1-1; Glover (54) 1-2.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Bennett; Brown, Bruce, Ablett, Grainger (Johnson, 81); Holland, Horne (Furlong, 81), O'Connor, Limpar (Forster, h-t); Newell, Devlin.

Port Vale (4-5-1): Musselwhite; Hill, Aspin, Glover, Stokes; McCarthy, Bogie, Talbot (Walker, 76), Porter, Guppy; Naylor (Foyle, 82). Substitute not used: Mills.

Referee: J Harris (Oxford). Bookings: Birmingham Limpar, Forster. Port Vale Stokes, Talbot.

Attendance: 13,192 Man of the match: Porter.