Football: Birmingham blunted

Birmingham 0 Barnsley 0 Attendance: 19,825
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The Independent Online
SOME OF the colour that has flushed Birmingham's cheeks after their superb start to the season was drained by Barnsley, whose performance contained plenty of the fabled Yorkshire grit, laced with some attractive football which on another day might have left the Blues really ashen-faced.

The Brummies' new hero, Dele Adebola, did manage to cause more than a few flutters in the visiting defence before Matty Appleby and Adrian Moses got his measure.

But the Barnsley goal had to survive an amazing scramble in the 12th minute, created by Adebola's supremacy in the air, when shots and headers ricocheted bewilderingly in front of Dave Watson before the ball was belted high up into the stands.

Nicky Forster added his share of nuisance value to Adebola's threat and might have broken the first-half deadlock when the striker's sweet header dropped his way, only for a Barnsley body to deflect the shot for a fruitless corner.

The Blues' inability to provide the kind of pass that would take Adebola clear of the tight marking was to be their undoing, although Martin Grainger did manage such a ball eight minutes after the restart, only for the shot to end up in Watson's side netting.

Peter Ndlovu replaced a tiring Forster just after the hour, but even his surer touch and vision could not unlock the Barnsley defence. A tactical switch to long-range shooting didn't improve matters as Jon McCarthy and Ndlovu couldn't trouble Watson, who fielded their efforts comfortably.

Barnsley got something of a second wind in the dying minutes and might have stolen all three points but for a clumsy, if effective, clearance by Gary Ablett which thwarted Ashley Ward with Ian Bennett all at sea.

The longer the game went on the more composed and ambitious Barnsley had become with Appleby, more or less confident that the Adebola threat had been contained, striding forward to display the dribbling and passing skills that distinguish a real sweeper from a reluctantly converted centre- back.

This could be the season when Birmingham move out of the shadow of their great rivals, Aston Villa, by joining them in the Premiership. If they can find someone who can service Adebola and also Ndlovu they could be more than a good bet for promotion as, at the back, they pack enough experience to see off most of the opposition in the First Division.

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