Promotion in Sunderland sights
Sunderland 3 Birmingham City 0
Wednesday 17 April 1996
Sunderland 3 Birmingham City 0
Sunderland virtually guaranteed themselves a Premiership place next season with this convincing victory over Birmingham City, whose inept performance surely put paid to their last, lingering hope of finding a place in the play-offs.
Sunderland's eagerness to strike an early blow resulted in an injury to Craig Russell, who tumbled over the City keeper and Michael Johnson and stayed off the field briefly for treatment to his leg. It was City, however, who were soon in need of treatment - for shock.
After 17 minutes, Sunderland took the lead with a superb goal from Michael Gray, who accepted a short pass from Paul Stewart to beat Bart Greimink in the City goal with a vicious drive into the top corner from 25 yards.
Greimink was soon picking the ball out of the net again. Sunderland were awarded a free-kick when Gary Poole pushed Gray off the ball. Martin Scott swung the ball over to the far post where Stewart rose to head home firmly for his first goal for Sunderland since joining them on a free transfer from Liverpool.
Stewart should have put Sunderland three up when a low, awkward cross from Gray reached him at the far post, but his attempt to side-foot the ball home was eagerly seized on by Griemink.
Towards the interval City launched some counter-attacks only to find that Sunderland could retreat almost as quickly as they attacked, and City were reduced to long-range, inaccurate efforts.
City's manager, Barry Fry, clearly unimpressed by his side's first-half performance, replaced three of them at the interval. Johnson, Paul Devlin and Andy Legg did not reappear. Their places were taken by Jonathan Hunt, Kevin Francis and Paul Peschisolido.
For Fry, who has used more than 50 players in League games this season, such wholesale substitutions were not a novelty, but it must surely lead City followers to question his managerial style.
Paul Barnes was probably still feeling somewhat confused by the new arrangements. Faced with only the keeper to beat early in the half, he took so long to make up his mind, he was dispossessed by Darius Kubicki at the expense of a corner.
Sunderland tightened their grip after this escape and with an hour gone made City's task virtually impossible. A mistake in the centre circle by Andy Edwards enabled Stewart to roll the ball into the path of Russell, who ran to the edge of the area to deceive the advancing goalkeeper.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Scott; Agnew, Bracewell, Ball, Gray; Russell, Stewart. Substitutes not used: Hall, Bridges, Howey.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Greimink; Poole, Edwards, Breen, Johnson (Hunt, h-t); Tait, Conforth, Legg (Peschisolido h-t), Grainger; Devlin (Francis, h-t), Barnes.
Referee: T West (Hull).
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester City paid the price for not dealing with Barcelona's Sergio Busquets
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working. In fact, it may have backfired
Piers Morgan 'hurt' after Arsenal legend Bob Wilson questions his support for the Gunners and labels him a 'pompous individual'
Brooklyn Beckham to be released: Why Arsenal could regret letting David Beckham's son depart
- 1 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...