Wednesday 21 February 2018

Doyle strike in vain as veteran Phillips haunts McCarthy with clinical brace


If Kevin Phillips does not bear a grudge against Mick McCarthy, he gives a passable impression of a man who does. Five months before his 37th birthday, the striker stepped from the bench to deliver two typically predatory finishes in the final 11 minutes as Birmingham snatched victory and pinned Wolves in the bottom three.

"They are the hallmarks of a genius," said winning manager Alex McLeish of his veteran super-sub. "Kevin might go bald and lose his teeth but he will never lose that technique and touch."

For an utterly distraught McCarthy, it was a familiar feeling. Phillips, whom he sold from Sunderland to Southampton in August 2003, struck three goals when West Brom overcame Wolves in the play-off semi-finals in 2007 and scored against them in the same season's FA Cup.

"I haven't known our dressing room that disappointed," said McCarthy, who turned 51 yesterday. "Kevin's a good player, a good scorer, but I'm not here to blow smoke up his a**e."

Wolves were alarm-free for much of a spiky game and were in sight of their first ever West Midlands derby victory in the Premier League after Kevin Doyle's sixth goal of the season.

The Ireland striker reacted sharply to touch in after a low Matt Jarvis cross was deflected against the foot of the near post by Roger Johnson three minutes before half-time.

However, too much rests on the shoulders of Wolves' £6.5m record signing. Too many of Doyle's team-mates, competent and industrious though they are, exude little belief that they can score at this level.

They were punished when Birmingham levelled: Keith Fahey's chip was headed back by Craig Gardner for Phillips to hook in.

With five minutes left, Stephen Carr made a long right-wing run and saw his centre chested down and dispatched right-footed on the volley into the bottom corner by Phillips. Wolves, so resilient for so long, were left asking why they had left such a predator in such space eight yards out.

"They must be sick of the sight of me but I've proved there's still something in the tank," said the evergreen striker.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson (Gardner, 67), Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Fahey, 74); Jerome, Benitez (Phillips, 62). Subs: Taylor (gk), Michel, Jervis, Vignal.

Wolves (4-5-1): Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Ward; Foley (Ebanks-Blake, 89), Mancienne, Henry, Jones (Guedioura, 67), Jarvis (Surman, 89); Doyle. Subs: Hennessey (gk), Elokobi, Vokes, Bia.

REF: L Probert (Wiltshire).

Irish Independent

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