Bikey ensures continuation of home rule

Burnley 2 Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Football

In a manner of speaking, Burnley could be the new Stoke City. Granted, it is not a comparison many would make. For one thing, with respect for the success achieved by Tony Pulis at the Britannia Stadium, this season's supposed no-hopers are a pleasure to watch.

But just as Stoke built their successful elevation to the Premier League around resilience – and more – on their own turf, Owen Coyle's side could do the same, albeit with a different philosophy. So far they have taken on four opponents at Turf Moor and beaten them all, Manchester United among them. Birmingham City became the latest thanks to a performance, especially in the second half, that confirmed the latest addition to the top division's Lancashire heartland as more than welcome.

Admittedly, they have work to do away from home. Coyle made that all too clear in a week that began with the lessons of a 5-0 defeat at Tottenham to be digested. In front of their own crowd, however, Burnley ooze self-belief and turn it into sweet, flowing football.

Coyle made a significant change, pushing André Bikey, the centre-back signed from Reading, into a midfield enforcer's role so he could restore his captain, Steven Caldwell, to the heart of the defence for what was, due to injury, his first match of the season. They adapted well.

Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, made a double substitution at half-time, bringing on Sebastian Larsson to play on the right flank, allowing James McFadden to switch and stretch the play on the left. After a first half in which one team largely cancelled out the other, it was a positive move from a manager accused, to his chagrin, of being negative by playing only one striker.

But Burnley came into their own, exploiting the extra space in midfield to blast holes in opponents beaten four times in the last five games. Tyrone Mears, on a rapid break after a Birmingham free-kick, set up the first goal, releasing Steven Fletcher, Coyle's £3 million signing, on the left to score his first Premier League goal. Joe Hart, in the Birmingham goal, somewhat let the ball through him.

The second goal capped Bikey's fine performance in his unfamiliar function, the Cameroon international coming up with a striker's finish after a one-two with David Nugent.

"We could have had more," Coyle said, mentioning the shot Fletcher hit against a post after a delightful chip by Robbie Blake, and a couple of saves by Hart, notably an exceptional effort to turn a Mears free-kick over the bar.

Birmingham, for whom Lee Bowyer missed an open goal in the first half, scored deep into stoppage time when Larsson's free-kick flashed past Brian Jensen.

"Up until the goal there was nothing in it," McLeish said. "But we just capitulated."

Attendance: 20,102

Referee: K Friend

Man of the match: Bikey

Match rating: 7/10

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