Birmingham City 3 Preston North End 1: Bendtner's selfishness highlights Blues drive

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The Independent Online

No one in his right mind would have denied the Birmingham City winger Gary McSheffrey his opportunity to take a penalty that he had earned and, from it, complete a hat-trick in this win over promotion rivals Preston North End. Nobody, that is, except for his team-mate Nicklas Bendtner.

Maybe it was the prospect of dropping to second in the club's scoring charts that led the on-loan Arsenal striker, one of the Championship's brightest stars, to request the ball from McSheffrey after the young winger had been fouled in the penalty area.

If so, the 18-year-old Dane's actions gave some insight into the competitive mood that has helped to propel Birmingham to the top of the division. On this evidence, it will assure him of a successful future at the Emirates in years to come.

"Gary is the one that had gone down, but I had played the pass," said the 6ft 5in Bendtner, who has scored eight League goals during his loan spell at St Andrew's, one fewer than McSheffrey. "I would have liked to have taken it and got a goal.

"I asked him if I could take the penalty. Then suddenly all the other players said he should take it. When it is nine against one, you have to back down. It doesn't matter. He scored and everyone is happy."

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is thought to be mulling over ending Bendtner's initial six-month loan spell despite Birmingham's Steve Bruce, who celebrates five years in charge this week, wishing to keep the Dane at the club. Bendtner was coy about his future plans. "I will talk to him [Wenger]," said Bendtner. "I am very happy here. It is a good place, but I will talk to them and see what will happen."

This result masked an otherwise ordinary performance by Birmingham. A minute into the game, the Preston striker David Nugent struck the bar and before 15 minutes were up, Birmingham defenders Radhi Jaidi and Matt Sadler had both made desperate defensive clearances.

Preston, having taken early charge, continued to look for a goal without much success, as their manager, Paul Simpson, was to note. Finishing, he said, was the key. Birmingham took the lead when Cameron Jerome took Sadler's pass on the run, turned his marker and set up McSheffrey. The winger struck a low deflected shot beyond Carlo Nash.

McSheffrey added a second eight minutes later. Taking a pass sweetly, he turned past Liam Chilvers on the edge of the area and then fired past Nash.

Preston pulled one back through Brett Ormerod just before the break when he tucked the ball home from close range after Maik Taylor had dropped a corner from Paul McKenna, but McSheffrey's late penalty completed the win.

Goals: McSheffrey (32) 1-0; McSheffrey (40) 2-0; Ormerod 45 (2-1); McSheffrey pen 89 (3-1).

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi, Upson, Sadler; Larsson, Muamba, Clemence, McSheffrey (Campbell, 90); Bendtner, Jerome (Nafti, 86). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Martin Taylor, Danns.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill; Whaley, McKenna, Sedgwick, Pugh; Nugent (Dichio, 81), Ormerod. Substitutes not used: Lonergan, Miller, Lewis Neal, Wilson.

Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

Booked: Birmingham: Jerome, Muamba, Nafti. Preston: St Ledger, Sedgwick, Pugh.

Man of the match: McSheffrey.

Attendance: 23,159.

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