Glen Little scored a goal in each half for Burnley last night to help his side shade a marvellous, fiercely competitive match and keep the Lancastrians clear at the top of the First Division. Trevor Francis' Birmingham deserved much better for the way they played, not least the 20-year-old Andrew Johnson who also scored a brace. The result will be little consolation for them this morning, but the manner of their defeat points to positive things in the season to come.
The organisation and zest that had given Stan Ternent's visitors six wins from seven League games before last night was apparent early on. Using Little on the right wing as their major conduit, chances fell to Gareth Taylor and Alan Moore within the first six minutes. The first, a header, lacked power, while the second drifted wastefully wide.
Birmingham's Johnson, utilising every yard of his pace, was the next to go close with a volley before the visitors took the lead inside 10 minutes. Little ran down the flank, cutting in when he was level with the 18-yard box. Looking up briefly as if about to cross, he hammered a left-foot shot from the right corner of the box and watched as it flew into the top left corner of the net.
With the home side briefly rattled and Burnley in control, it seemed a second goal was inevitable. It duly arrived in the 19th minute, but after a spell of sustained it was Birmingham who scored it. Stan Lazaridis crossed from the left and Johnson finished with a neat, angled header.
Unfazed, Burnley responded by upping the tempo of an already high-octane game. Their reward came in the 34th minute when Ian Moore, on one of several urgent zig-zag runs, shot powerfully from the edge of the box and restored the lead.
Birmingham could have been level within a couple of minutes, Johnson again surging forward but Nick Mikopoulos saved well from his shot. Not to be denied, the young striker restored parity five minutes before the break, again after a devastating burst of speed before slotting the ball low under the goalkeeper. He looked well placed to complete his hat-trick four minutes after half-time but was pulled back by Alan Moore outside the box. The offender received a yellow card and the resultant free kick came to nothing.
Whether inspired by two pairs of fresh legs in substitutes Curtis Woodhouse and Joey Hutchinson, or desperate to maintain their 100 per cent home League record, Birmingham completely dominated the 20 minutes after the re-start. Woodhouse had two efforts saved, one a cross that mistook itself for a shot, the other a drive that went straight to Alan Kelly in the Burnley goal. Johnson also continued to dash around, peppering in attempts from a variety of angles.
Burnley rode their luck and waited for a break, which came after 71 minutes. Little cut in from the left and the lanky winger lofted the ball over a densely-packed box. It hit the far post and, to the visitors' delight, fell over the line.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Kelly; Gill, Bragstad (Hutchinson, 46), M Johnson, Grainger; Sonner, O'Connor (Woodhouse, 46), Hughes, Lazaridis (Furlong, 82); A Johnson, Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Marcelo.
Burnley (4-4-2): Mikopoulos; West, Briscoe, Davis, Armstrong; Little, Taylor, Ball, Cook (Thomas, 67); A Moore (Ellis, 88), I Moore (Gnohere, 73). Substitutes not used: Cennamo (gk), Payton.
Referee: S Mathieson (Stockport).