Birmingham City 2 Colchester United 1: Blues look green at lower level as Jerome sees red

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The Independent Online

And so it begins for Birmingham City - life away from the Premiership. Steve Bruce's side, odds-on favourites to regain their top-flight status, started their campaign with maximum points from this enjoyable season-opening encounter against Colchester United, but with an unconvincing performance.

Their display against the Championship newcomers, a team strongly tipped to be fighting relegation, hardly left their supporters celebrating. Neither then, would the impending three-game ban chalked up by their new signing Cameron Jerome - not the kind of return that, at £3m, had made him the Championship's most expensive player.

Success was laboured, much like Birmingham's efforts to break down a resilient Colchester side, but came in the form of a 78th-minute goal from Arsenal's on-loan striker Nicklas Bendtner. Expectant Blues supporters, however, will know that Bruce's legion of new signings, including Jerome, who was sent off five minutes into his debut, must gel quickly in the division they left in 2002.

"It is a different pressure to the kind that we have been used to for the past four years," said the Birmingham midfielder Stephen Clemence. "After fighting at the other end of the table, we are now in a situation where we are expected to win every game.

"There are going to be a lot of clubs fighting to get into the Premiership but I think that once we get firing on all cylinders, we will be right up there. I think it will be a decent season."

Birmingham struck the first blow, on 31 minutes, as D J Campbell scored his first competitive goal for the club. The Birmingham City striker was picked out by the defender Bruno N'Gotty with a neat chipped ball to the back post, which was headed confidently past the Colchester goalkeeper Aidan Davison.

Six minutes into the second half, however, Geraint Williams' men equalised through Richard Garcia after he shot powerfully past Maik Taylor.

With his heavy price tag, Jerome's contribution to the afternoon's proceedings was minimal given that he was on the pitch for all of five minutes. The young striker was dismissed for lashing out at the Colchester captain, Karl Duguid.

Bendtner's contribution was far more telling. The lanky, 19-year-old Danish striker impressed in his second-half outing. His goal came after 78 minutes, after he took down Stephen Kelly's cross before driving low past Davison.

Yet the Colchester manager, Geraint Williams, knows his side may cause a few upsets this season.

Goals: Campbell (30) 1-0; Garcia (51) 1-1; Bendtner (79) 2-1.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor; Sadler, Tebily, N'Gotty, Kelly; Dunn, Clemence (Bendtner, 56), Danns, Johnson; Forssell (Jerome, 65), Campbell (Larsson, 56). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Muamba.

Colchester United (4-4-2): Davison; Halford, Brown, Baldwin, Elokobi; Kemal Izzet (White, 73), Watson, Jackson, Duguid; Garcia (Iwelumo, 67), Cureton (Guy, 82). Substitutes not used: Gerken, Richards.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).

Booked: Birmingham City Dunn.

Sent off: Jerome (70).

Man of the match: Forssell.

Attendance: 24,238.

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