Wigley feels heat on futile day

Southampton 0 - Birmingham City 0
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The Independent Football

You had to disagree with the Birmingham manager Steve Bruce's assessment of this match as "extremely average". It wasn't even that average.

You had to disagree with the Birmingham manager Steve Bruce's assessment of this match as "extremely average". It wasn't even that average.

But as the players trooped off to a weary chorus of booing, both clubs were able to pick out a bottom line from an afternoon of largely dismal diligence. The visitors had extended their unbeaten Premiership run to six games, while the home side had lifted themselves two places off the bottom by virtue of goal difference. Such is life among the Premiership underclass. With their three first-choice strikers out with injury, Southampton never looked likely to end a goalless sequence that now stands at four games.

It was a mark of the desperation that has taken hold at St Mary's Stadium that the high point of the afternoon was the arrival on the pitch of their fourth-choice striker Brett Ormerod, only relatively fresh from playing 90 minutes for Leeds on Saturday, as he completed a month's loan period.

Steve Wigley, the manager under whom Southampton have earned just three points in seven Premiership matches, was keen to praise Ormerod's work ethic. But the truth was that, in the 26 minutes allotted to him, Ormerod laboured in vain. And he was not alone.

Southampton's limited opportunities occurred before the break, with 18-year-old Dexter Blackstock sending a header looping on to the bar in the 10th minute, and Mikael Nilsson evading the onrushing Birmingham keeper Maik Taylor two minutes from half-time, but finding the side, rather than the back of the net.

Birmingham, as Bruce reiterated, are also bereft in the striking department as they wait for their top scorer of last season, Mikael Forssell, to recover from a knee injury. Despite that, they might have claimed the points in the second half when Emile Heskey's cross from the left byline after 66 minutes set up David Dunn for a shot which he skied over the bar.

Ten minutes later they were denied by a reaction save from Antti Niemi, after Jelle van Damme's mishit clearance from another Heskey cross had fallen directly to Darren Anderton, who was making his first full Premiership appearance for the club. Defeat would have been a deadening blow to Southampton. But Wigley admits that he is still "desperate" for a first Premiership victory.

Inevitably, the question of his tenure was raised again. "I'm more than confident in the chairman that he's made it perfectly clear that things are fine," he responded. It sounded vaguely positive.

Southampton: (4-4-1-1): Niemi; Kenton, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Van Damme; Nilsson (Ormerod, 64), Delap, Svensson, McCann; Fernandes (Prutton, 88); Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Blayney (gk), Best, Higginbotham.

Birmingham City: (4-4-2): Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Gray; Anderton, Savage, Johnson, Dunn (Clapham, 81); Yorke (Gronkjaer, 64), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Tebily, Bennett (gk), Taylor.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Birmingham: Anderton.

Man of the match: Dunn.

Attendance: 27,568.