Birmingham City 2 Colchester Utd 1: Bendtner rescues Blues

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The Independent Online

Hope may have been renewed at their local rivals Aston Villa, but it will take a little while longer for Birmingham City's supporters to regain the faith. Their team's bid to return to the Premiership began in earnest yesterday with the visit of Colchester United. And despite an opening day win, it will take a while for the belief, and on the evidence of a far from capacity attendance at the St Andrew's Stadium, the supporters, to trickle back.

"We have to live with that and deal with it," said Steve Bruce. "But we saw a little bit of resilience when things weren't going so well for us and that was good. We have got a lot of young players and a few nerves about."

The display was far from convincing, and a rush of blood from the £3m signing Cameron Jerome that resulted in a red card five minutes after his debut in the second half must have left Birmingham's supporters wholly underwhelmed by a performance in which their side struggled to live up to the tag of Championship favourites.

Such was the unconvincing nature of Birmingham's forward play that the need for an injection of creativity, one that Bruce hopes his transfer target Gary McSheffrey of Coventry City will bring, was plain.

Birmingham took the lead on 31 minutes. D J Campbell, anonymous for much of the first half after failing to develop anunderstanding with his strike partner Mikael Forssell, headed past the Colchester goalkeeper Aidan Davison after Bruno N'Gotty had picked him out with a chipped cross to the back post.

Birmingham were the better side, but their dominance in this match was not clear-cut and, in the 51st minute, Colchester equalised. The home defence failed to clear and the striker Richard Garcia struck the loose ball powerfully past a helpless Maik Taylor. A buoyant crowd fell silent.

Colchester continued to battle bravely, even when Bruce made a flurry of substitutions as first the on-loan Arsenal duo Nicklas Bendtner and Sebastian Larsson were introduced on 56 minutes with Jerome following soon after.

Five minutes later Jerome's afternoon came to an abrupt end as the 19-year-old striker was dismissed for pushing the Colchester captain, Karl Duguid, in the face. He trudged off with his sole contribution to the game being an air-shot from the edge of the penalty area.

"The sending-off is very harsh," said Bruce. "Yes, he has raised his arm, but the guy has fouled him and it is disappointing because he is just a kid making his home debut in from of 25,000 supporters.

It was the impressive Bendtner that restored the lead after neatly taking down Stephen Kelly's cross before unleashing a low drive past Davison on 79 minutes, a goal, on the balance of play, maybe a little undeserved.

The Colchester manager, Geraint Williams, meanwhile, was quietly confident in his side's survival prospects.

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