Derby County 0 Birmingham 1: Bruce rails against 'obscene' demands

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The Independent Football

A deflected shot by Stephen Clemence six minutes from time earned Steve Bruce some respite as his team ended a run of five games without a win in the Championship, prompting the Birmingham manager to issue a plea on behalf of his profession that critics demanding instant success take a "reality check".

Clemence's freakish goal, which looped into the Derby net, clipping a post and the back of goalkeeper Lee Grant's head on its way, takes the heat off Bruce, at least temporarily, but he feared it might take only a bad result in next Saturday's derby against West Bromwich Albion to turn it up again.

"If it is a reprieve I don't know for how long," he said. "We are a point off third in the table and supposedly there has been a crisis and I'm about to lose my job. Just before Bryan Robson got sacked at West Brom, there was a chance in their game against Southend where Kevin Phillips had a shot that hit a post where they would have been third if it had gone in. It didn't and on the Monday he had lost his job.

"It's ridiculous, obscene really. The average expectancy for a manager to stay in his job is just over a year now but how can you do a job in that time? It is hard enough to bounce back anyway after relegation and I'm trying to rebuild a team here. Yet this division is driven by that crock of gold at the end, the great prize of getting into the Premiership, and that has really created an evil in the game. We need a reality check."

Clemence was one of six players recalled in a sweep that saw Bruno N'Gotty, Olivier Tebily and Fabrice Muamba dropped, with Neil Danns, DJ Campbell and £3 million striker Cameron Jerome relegated to the bench.

Jerome was back in the fray after 23 minutes when David Dunn limped off, only to squander the best chance of an opening half dominated by Birmingham, in which they could have had a penalty when Grant impeded Dunn and Nicklas Bendtner had one shot saved and another cleared off the line.

The second half was largely dictated by Derby. Morten Bisgaard struck the foot of a post and it took a fine save from Maik Taylor to keep out Steve Howard's goalbound header. Bruce would have been happy with a point. Instead, Clemence might have given him just the luck he needed to stay in his job.