Colchester United 1 Birmingham City 1: Upson's exit hangs heavy as Birmingham settle for draw

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The Independent Online

This was a drab performance from Birmingham City which came at the end of a difficult week for the manager Steve Bruce after his highly rated defender Matthew Upson was sold by the club's board.

The Birmingham manager was left fuming against the club's owners, David Gold and David Sullivan. But Bruce spent a few minutes with the latter at the side of the Layer Road pitch ahead of the match, the pair chatting freely. All seemed well - for the photographers, at least.

However, Gold voiced his opinions on the matter yesterday on Radio Five's Sportsweek ensuring that the saga runs on for a second week.

"We feel that maybe he would not have given his all," said Gold. "Players under-perform when they have things on their mind and Matthew could easily have fallen into that category.

"We desperately wanted to keep Matthew Upson, the consummate professional who had played for Birmingham for four years and did a magnificent job. But that is my point. That was the Matthew Upson we wanted to keep - what we couldn't keep was the Matthew Upson of the final two weeks who was calling David Sullivan saying, 'Please let me go, let me go'.

"We also had his agent bombarding us with calls and in the final analysis we felt it was in the best interests of Birmingham City to let him go."

Maybe Bruce realises he needs to turn his attention and resources to his players. His side's nine-point margin over Preston North End and Derby County at the turn of the year has evaporated. However, with two games in hand, Bruce is relishing the remainder of the season.

"Of course you have to take your hat off to Derby and Preston," said Bruce. "They are on unbelievable runs at the moment. I think that is five 1-0 wins for Derby on the spin, they have invested heavily in the transfer window and they will be a threat. But we have got games in hand."

Birmingham were disappointing for much of the game and were clearly struggling to deal with Colchester's physical approach. The first half was one of few chances, but it took just 10 minutes after the break for Colchester to take the lead.

Kem Izzet was quickest to the ball after Jamie Cureton's shot lashed against the post. He tapped in from close range. Birmingham were not behind for long and equalised on 66 minutes when Clemence headed in a corner from the winger Gary McSheffrey.

Goals: Izzet (55), Clemence (66).

Colchester (4-4-2): Gerken; White, Mills, Brown, Barker; Duguid, Watson, Izzet (Ephraim, 78), Jackson; Cureton, Iwelumo. Substitutes not used: Davison, Guy, Richards, McLeod.

Birmingham (4-4-2): Doyle; N'Gotty, Jaidi, Martin Taylor, Sadler; Johnson, Muamba (Larsson, 86) Clemence, McSheffrey; Vine (Bendtner, 59); Jerome (Campbell, 90). Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor, Danns.

Referee: K Woolmer (Northamptonshire)

Man of the match: Radhi Jaidi.

Attendence: 5,918.

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