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Fans on the rampage as Stoke take a beating.

STOKE 0

BIRMINGHAM 7

DESPERATE STOKE slumped to their biggest defeat for years provoking a furious backlash from angry fans.

Hundreds of Potters' supporters waved their season tickets in the direction of the directors' box.

Police reinforcements - which included 12 mounted police officers and a helicopter overhead - moved into the Britannia Stadium well before the end of Stoke's utter humiliation at the hands of a rampant Birmingham.

A dozen or so supporters had made random incursions onto the pitch as Birmingham turned the screw, adding goals at regular intervals.

But it turned really ugly on the final whistle as more than a thousand fans stormed onto the pitch.

A phalanx of police horses stood at one end to keep them away from the large Birmingham contingent.

But the police need not have worried for their fury was aimed exclusively at the directors' box.

They bayed for the blood of chairman Peter Coates and his manager Chic Bates and some tried to storm the inner sanctum before peace was restored inside the ground. A noisy demonstration continued outside for a further 45 minutes.

But Bates, whose short tenure as manager now looks under serious threat, failed to show up at the customary after-match inquest.

Grabbed later outside, however, he said: "It was a heavy defeat by any standards. To concede seven goals is a thrashing and I had to stand up and be counted."

Stoke are now without a win in ten games.

Ironically their last victory came on November 8 when they handed out a 3-0 thrashing to Birmingham's local rivals Wolves.

The writing was on the wall as early as the fourth minute when Bryan Hughes's glanced header put Birmingham in front. Just five minutes later he added another and the merciless slaughter was underway.

Nicky Forster got the third after 26 minutes but the real deluge came in the second-half when Paul Furlong bagged a hat-trick to go with a solitary goal from John McCarthy.

In fact nothing went right for hapless Stoke.

Their defending was suicidal and their distribution was woeful throughout. The sluggish Paul Stewart, without a goal since October 25, created virtually no threat up front.

He was replaced by Marco Gabbiadini at half-time and Ray Wallace came on for Kofi Nyamah but they failed to make any impact on the outcome.

Bates now has to try and pick up his players for Tuesday's third round FA Cup tie at West Brom.

He said: "I can tell you the players are very down. You feel the pressures with a score like that but you have to live with them until the next game.

"I can't believe it happened. It was a day everything went in for them."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Matthews, Henry
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 11, 1998
Words:452
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