The lack of a manager is not yet a problem for Birmingham City, apparently. Under the temporary control of coaches Mick Mills and Jim Barron, they have picked up seven points in three First Division matches since parting company with Trevor Francis.
Last night's victory was made possible by two goals from their former manager's £2m record signing, Geoff Horsfield.
Whether Mills and Barron have a chance of remaining at the helm only time will tell. On the one hand, chairman David Gold has told them to expect "a decent runs of games" in which to stake their claim. On the other, co-owner David Sullivan has been openly expressing his admiration for former Manchester City manager Joe Royle and Steve Bruce.
The pair last night made their own ambitions clear. "If we were asked to carry on we would not say no," Barron said. "If we can all stick in there together, including the coaching team, we are good enough to go up."
Contradictory comments from the boardroom at St Andrews are not unusual. After Sullivan launched a vicious verbal attack on Francis last weekend, Gold felt obliged to say that his partner's views were not necessarily those of the club.
Among other things, Sullivan accused Francis of "buying too many dud players" although whether he included Horsfield and Stan Lazaridis in that category was not clear. The striker owed both his goals to his impressive team-mate, another Francis signing.
The opener came after 36 minutes when Lazaridis, in the centre circle, played a superb pass into the path of Horsfield, who timed his run perfectly to spring Gillingham's offside trap and then slotted the ball wide of goalkeeper Vince Bartram for his fifth goal of the season.
Two minutes into the second half, the pair linked up again, Lazaridis making a diagonal run before finding his colleague in space on the right. This time a delicate chip from the former Fulham striker found the net.
Gillingham might count themselves unlucky, however, not to have shared the points after an unmarked Guy Ipoua rose to head home Chris Hope's cross five minutes later. They were the brighter side thereafter and it took a excellent save from Nico Vaesen, turning substitute Bob Taylor's header over the bar, to deny them. In the closing stages, a suspected cruciate ligament injury to defender Adrian Pennock added to Gillingham's woe as they slipped to a fourth defeat in a row.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Vaesen; Gill, Purse, Johnson, Grainger; Sonner (Woodhouse, 72), O'Connor, Luntala, Lazaridis; Marcelo (Ferrari, 84), Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Holdsworth, Burrows.
Gillingham (3-5-2): Bartram; Hope, Pennock (James, 84), Butters (King, 81); Patterson, Nosworthy, Smith, Osborn, Perpetuini; Shaw (Taylor, 60), Ipoua. Substitutes not used: Browning, Saunders.
Referee: S Baines (Chesterfield).Reuse content