Football: Hughes dents Blues

Birmingham City 1 A Johnson 43 West Bromwich Albion 1 Hughes 53 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 25,495

BAGGIES' FANS will be saddened their unofficial media mascot, Frank Skinner, could not persuade the BBC to provide him with the reported pounds 20m contract he was seeking - perhaps, if he had, he may have felt compelled to scatter some of the proceeds Brian Little's way.

While Little has steered his team well this season - undefeated so far is no mean achievement - he unquestionably needs to bolster his playing resources to serve his star men better.

With the ever-willing Lee Hughes a solo operator for long periods and a game plan designed to stifle rather than strike fear into the opposition, one can only speculate as to how long this dour approach can succeed. It was Hughes who cancelled out Andrew Johnson's precise first-half strike, the Birmingham striker's first league goal, when he spun and struck home from close range after being fed by Kevin Kilbane.

This duo, plus the inspired Alan Miller in goal, were the only real suggestions of the kind of quality Little will require if his team is to stay with the leading pack. While the industry and determination of the Haw-thorns side is to be applauded, there will clearly be times when tiredness or injury take their toll and they do not get the run of the ball that they enjoyed yesterday. After the game, Little felt his team had performed well in open play but struggled with Birmingham's clear quality advantage on set-pieces.

While that is a touch disingenuous - Birmingham had the bulk of possession and, in the second half at least, managed to weave together some neat passing sequences - Little had a point in that his defence, while they were often stretched, held their nerve largely to counter the threats of Paul Furlong and, his goal aside, Johnson.

Trevor Francis had expected this derby opposition to provide a test of character and had predicted their tactics accurately. "On possession and chances we should have won the game but their approach was to try for nil-nil and hope they'd nick a goal," said the Birmingham manager. "Hughes is one of the best strikers in the League and his goal was the first chance they had - but there was nothing we could have done about it.

"I thought we played well and had good moments but Miller was inspired," Francis added. It would be no exaggeration to say that the keeper's contribution was at least the equal of his team's striker. With his defence creaking under pressure, Miller's one-handed save to deny Jon McCarthy, whose edge- of-the-box volley was struck with venom and accuracy, showed genuine class and, moments later, he smartly dropped low to his left to thwart Johnson.

So, records to be envied remained intact at St Andrew's. West Brom are still undefeated, though they have won just two of their six Nationwide games, and Birmingham have yet to lose at home. Brian Little's assessment, however, speaks for itself: "At the end, we were hanging on and, fortunately, we are getting some good breaks at the moment."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future