Rival fans disgrace their clubs again

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The Independent Online
Birmingham City 2

Castle 24, Charlery 88

Millwall 2

Dixon 58, Rae 85

Attendance:23,016

IF THE Premiership was partly exposed as unsophisticated huff and puff in Europe this week, what does that make the First Division? This juddering clash between the Endsleigh's top two was a compelling game but might easily have been played to the accompaniment of "The Ride of the Valkyrie".

It clearly got to both sets of supporters, neither of which has an unblemished record, with Millwall fans tearing up seats while Birmingham supporters hurled objects down on them, and there were running battles outside the ground afterwards with the police closing off one of the roads by the ground.

Millwall's manager, Mick McCarthy, claimed that substitute Dave Savage had been punched by a spectator while warming up during the first half, after Birmingham had scored their opening goal. "After City had scored their first goal a fan came out and hit him in the face - you can imagine what might have happened if that had happened at our place," said McCarthy, whose side has just escaped action by the FA over an incident involving two fans at a Coca-Cola Cup match at the Den.

Millwall also had windows smashed on the team coach after the match yesterday. McCarthy stated: "I'm not making an official complaint - that's not my style, but it shows that there are morons everywhere. I wish people would realise that."

On the field, it looked for 25 minutes as if the division might have its third new leaders in as many Saturdays as adrenalin-fuelled Birmingham tore into Millwall, Steve Claridge missing an open goal from 18 yards and Ricky Otto spurning an inviting shooting chance in the first six minutes.

But it was 24 minutes before Birmingham found a way past Kasey Keller. A curling free- kick was squeezed into the top corner with a precise header by Steve Castle from eight yards. Shortly afterwards Uwe Fuchs bounced a header on the Birmingham crossbar.

Millwall's Doyle, Bowry and Stevens were all booked for fouls in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, the third coming shortly after substitute Kerry Dixon had equalised with another header from a corner. But the visitors looked increasingly threatening, their football becoming more composed as Birmingham's grew moreragged. Five minutes from time they appeared to have claimed a not undeserved winner. Birmingham were again undone by a corner, this time caught napping, as the ball was played short to Alex Rae, whose shot ricocheted off two defenders on its way into the net.

But Barry Fry's teams have always dealt in drama and with two minutes left another substitute, Ken Charlery, bundled the ball home after Tony Witter made a hash of Gary Poole's cross.

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