Poole makes pressure pay

Football: Birmingham City 1 (Poole 72) Wolverhampton 1 (Bull 25) Attendance: 21,349
Click to follow
The Independent Online
TAKE one FA Cup third-round tie; add a local derby; stir in an undignified midweek row; boil vigorously for 90 minutes and serve on a damp Birmingham afternoon. What you have is a recipe for a bloodbath and with two Wolves players stretchered off and a Birmingham man requiring stitches in a head wound that is what we got.

The ingredients for this West Midlands hotpot will be thrown back into the Molineux pressure cooker a week on Wednesday after Birmingham claimed a richly deserved equaliser with 19 minutes to go yesterday.

The result leaves Mark McGhee still looking for his first victory in four matches since replacing Graham Taylor and worrying over the fitness of his stretcher cases, Neil Emblen and Mark Rankine.

Birmingham manager Barry Fry faces a horrendous fixture backlog although he lives again to try to reach the fourth round for the first time in his managerial career. Fry claims to hate the cup competitions, perhaps understandably, but his side showed little inclination to give up the ghost after Steve Bull scored his 260th goal for Wolves to give them a 24th-minute lead. Having scored only four times in 17 appearances under Taylor this season, he is enjoying a renaissance, instinctively heading his fifth goal in the nine games since the former England manager departed.

It was made by his partner Don Goodman, who charged down Gary Poole's clearance and the ball rebounded for Bull to lift his header over a stranded Ian Bennett from just inside the area. Either side of that, Wolves defended with comfort in a dour first half, with McGhee thwarting Birmingham's threat with two man-markers and Emblen at sweeper.

The latter was carried off just before half-time after a collision with Ian Richardson which left the defender semi-conscious and on his way to hospital with a shoulder injury. McGhee claimed Richardson should have been sent off and volubly made his opinion known to referee Robbie Hart at half-time. "I was a little bit incensed and got a bit carried away," McGhee admitted after the match. "Looking back it was a turning point. Up until then they had not looked like scoring."

Wolves were forced to withdraw midfielder Mark Atkins to fill the gap left by Emblen's departure, but his replacement, Rankine, was later stretchered off after a more innocent collision. It allowed Birmingham to apply more pressure which finally told when Steve Claridge's shot was blocked back into the path of Poole who rasped a rising shot past Stowell.