Shackell unshackles Rams to best Birmingham

Derby County 2 Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Football

Birmingham City's bid for an immediate return to the Premier League made a stuttering start as the Blues led in their first Championship test at Derby County, but lost.

Chris Hughton's men went in front thanks to defender Curtis Davies' header, but Jason Shackell quickly equalised.

Nigel Clough's side had the momentum and Steve Davies (pictured) fired them in front before half-time and held on for three points against a Birmingham who created plenty of chances but are yet to really gel.

Hughton's side have been weakened by a player exodus this summer which has seen such as Craig Gardner, Ben Foster, Sebastian Larsson, Barry Ferguson and Roger Johnson all leave.

Five of the visitors' starting XI were new faces with the former Inverness striker Adam Rooney on his own up front. Derby had plenty of new recruits too, with Frankie Fielding, in goal, as well as Jamie Ward, Shackell, Kevin Kilbane and Craig Bryson.

Derby started brightly and after Lee Croft went close in the first minute, settled into the game confidently. Birmingham carried a little more threat going forward, though, as Keith Fahey headed wide wastefully from Chris Burke's cross while Jordon Mutch rattled the bar witha header.

The opening goal came in the 19th minute through Davies, the former Aston Villa centre-half heading in Mutch's corner.

Seven minutes later the Rams were level, however, as Shackell headed Ben Davies' free-kick past new Blues goalkeeper Boaz Myhill in the 26th minute. Rooney headed wide in the 28th minute, but Derby snatched the half-time lead, courtesy of Steve Davies, who was given time on the ball before unleashing a shot which beat Myhill from 20 yards.

Fahey and Burke had half-chances for Birmingham early in the second half, but Derby twice came close to extending their lead through Ward and Steve Davies, the former hitting the bar with a header.

Mutch twice fired wide with speculative efforts for the visitors. Rooney had a header saved and was denied a penalty when the striker claimed to have been pushed by Shackell.

Birmingham should have levelled when Burke's foray forward saw him hit the post with a chip, but right-back Stephen Carr failed to get his shot from the rebound on target.

Ward had another chance for Derby as the lively tempo continued and although the Birmingham substitute Chris Wood added a physical presence up front, there was no way back for Hughton's men.