Southend Utd 0 Birmingham City 4: Super Campbell starts feast

Birmingham stay on top after leaving sorry Southend all at sea
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The Independent Football

Birmingham City's charge back to the top flight is in full flow and on the latest evidence, they will do it in some style and win the Championship by some distance. A desperately disjointed and lacklustre Southend United side were the latest to be comprehensively beaten by Steve Bruce's players, who now have chalked up 16 goals in their last five games and look set to make an immediate return to the Premiership.

Goals from D J Campbell, Stephen Clemence, Gary McSheffrey and Raidi Jaidi saw Bruce's Birmingham, reformed since their relegation last season, waltz confidentially past a poor Southend.

"I do believe in our forward line, we have some real penetration," said Bruce after strong performances from the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Campbell. "Long may it continue. I thought that we were very good. Hopefully it is the start of a good Christmas. It has been a huge turnaround and we can only get better."

Birmingham's opening goal on eight minutes came amid controversy. The Tunisian midfielder Mehdi Nafti appeared to win the ball from Lee Bradbury with a two-footed lunge. Despite protestations from Southend players, play continued. Birmingham's Gary McSheffrey played the ball low into the path of the striker Campbell, who unleashed a powerful shot past the goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan.

"When you are down, that's what happens," said Steve Tilson, the Southend manager, of that decision. "It is a tough division. Every game is tough. When confidence is not high, it is difficult to lift players' heads."

A second followed on 38 minutes through Clemence. Damien Johnson's cross from the wing was intercepted by defender Efe Sodje. Clemence was alert to the loose ball and fired his shot goalwards. It bounced off the turf and past the despairing Flahavan.

Two goals up and Birmingham were cruising. Predictably, a third came their way on 54 minutes. McSheffrey curled a low free-kick around the wall and past Flahavan. It was his 14th goal in all competitions this season, and prompted fervent praise from his manager.

"A lot of people scratched their heads when I paid £2.5 million for him," said Bruce, after a fine display from the 24-year-old winger. "He has got everything I like in a player.

When asked if he could feature for future England squads, Bruce said: "I can seen him playing at the next level. Where are the other English players in his position that can score goals at his rate?"

When it looked like Southend would be spared further agony, a fourth was added by defender Jaidi. The Tunisian headed home a cross by Damien Johnson with six minutes of the game remaining.

Moments earlier Southend had tested the Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor for the first time. He saved well from Steve Hammell's free-kick.

Tilson, whose side have recorded just the one win in 20 League games and lie rooted to the bottom of the division, painted a stark picture for his players. "We got punished by a quality side. We earned the right to be in the division and we must earn the right to stay in it."