Birmingham City 0 Portsmouth 2: Lifeless Blues in troubled times

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As the Birmingham fans streamed into the damp darkness of Saturday night, their team managerless, beaten and dropping ever closer to the relegation zone, their club stuck, as it has been for months, on the brink of a Hong Kong takeover, someone articulated a reason to be cheerful: "At least Wigan lost."

Such is life for City supporters – finding cold comfort in the fact that the club to which their manager of the past six years, Steve Bruce, has moved remain between themselves and Championship football.

While Carson Yeung continues to bluster about buying out the two other main shareholders, David Gold and David Sullivan – his spokesman insisting, despite the fact that the club have imposed a 20 December deadline, that there is no time-frame for the operation – those who pay to watch the team are in limbo.

Sullivan's programme notes paid unwittingly comic tribute to a week in which wrangles over Bruce's payments for "image rights" held up his move to the JJB Stadium. "When these notes were written it looked as if Steve Bruce was leaving us. However, at the time of going to press, this is no longer certain... if he has decided to stay please get behind him and the team today, and if he's left get behind Eric [Black] and the team for today's crucial game."

After pointing out that Bruce either had Birmingham in the Premier League or promoted back, Sullivan added that there had been "some very dark times": "Relegation in 2006, the 7-0 defeat by Liverpool in the FA Cup and possibly our darkest hour was the 1-0 defeat at home against Norwich last October when it looked as though our chances of getting re-promoted were fading fast... However, let us not look back at the past, let's look to the future..."

That may now contain Alex McLeish, if Birmingham's request to approach the Scotland coach is allowed. The caretaker manager, Black, who may or may not be joining his old boss at Wigan, held up his hand for dropping the regular goalkeeper Maik Taylor and giving a Premier League debut to the Ghana international Richard Kingson, who allowed a shot from Sulley Muntari to creep under his body for the first Portsmouth goal.

Nine minutes from time when Nico Kranjcar, whose early potshot so traumatised Scott Carson at Wembley last Wednesday, secured three points with a long-range free-kick.

Portsmouth's manager, Harry Redknapp, continues to be cited as a possible England manager. "I have not got a chance," he said. "I don't think I've got a prayer. That is the honest truth." He added: "We all want to stay loyal to our clubs but you would almost have to be a traitor to turn it down. How do you turn down the chance to manage your country?"

Sadly, it seems likely he will never find out.

Goals: Muntari (33) 0-1; Kranjcar (81) 0-2.

Birmingham City (4-5-1): Kingson; Kelly, Djourou, Ridgwell, Schmitz; De Ridder, Muamba, Nafti, Kapo, McSheffrey (O'Connor, 74); Forssell. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Quedrue, Parnaby, Larsson.

Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Pamarot; Utaka (Taylor, 80), Diop, Davis, Muntari, Kranjcar; Benjani. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Hreidarsson, Mendes, Nugent.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Birmingham McSheffrey; Portsmouth Davis, Benjani.

Man of the match: Muntari

Attendance: 22,089.

Lion Cub?

Matt Taylor (Portsmouth)

Only came on for the last 10 minutes of the match but the utility man possesses the pace and flair to serve his country.

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