Birmingham City 1 Fulham 0: Pennant and Butt bring back that winning feeling

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The Independent Football

Nicky Butt gave Birmingham a Premiership lifeline by heading a late winner to secure a first home success of the campaign for Steve Bruce's side.

The on-loan Newcastle midfielder stooped to deflect the ball past Mark Crossley from close range after Emile Heskey had turned a cross from substitute Jamie Clapham into his path.

It ended a miserable run of just one point from the previous seven games at St Andrews and the final whistle was greeted with wild scenes of joy from the 27,000 crowd.

The home side dominated the final 45 minutes and looked like they would rue Heskey and Butt failing to convert decent headed opportunities - but then came Butt's vital contribution with only minutes remaining.

One swallow does not make a summer but Bruce will be hoping this signals the major revival that will be needed to move out of relegation trouble. Heskey caused problems throughout, leading the line effectively, while David Dunn caused problems from the centre of the park but there was an overall improvement from all the Blues players.

Fulham showed plenty of resilience with Zat Knight impressive at the back but they are still searching for their first away win of 2005-2006 and remain on the fringe of the relegation zone.

Birmingham began brightly and Dunn was soon showing his trickery with a mazy crossfield run before being stopped in his tracks by a mis-timed challenge from Steed Malbranque.

But the former Blackburn player would have been disappointed with his free-kick attempt which flew straight at Mark Crossley - although that proved to be the only on target effort in the first 45 minutes.

Fulham had shown their resilience in the goalless draw at West Brom last weekend after being reduced to 10 men following the sending off of Luis Boa Morte and they were again tough to break down. In a rare counter-attack a fine pass from recalled defender Knight played in Thomasz Radzinski behind the home defence and Blues skipper Kenny Cunningham had to come across to cover.

Fulham started to come more into the game and a free-kick from Liam Rosenoir picked out Knight on the edge of the Blues box but his first time effort flew well wide.

Malbranque put over one of the most dangerous crosses of the game early in the second period and John was only inches away from making contact after getting clear of the City defence.

Bruce did not wait long to make his first substitution, bringing on Jermaine Pennant in place of Lazaridis after 53 minutes as the home side stepped up a gear.

Crossley had his body behind a low powerful drive from Pennant after Heskey had laid the ball into his path. Heskey had Birmingham's best chance after 57 minutes when he made a perfectly timed run to reach Dunn's left-wing centre but he sent his header straight at Crossley.

"Technically, I have to say our performance, and the game, left a lot to be desired," Bruce said. "But we gave it everything. It wasn't pretty at times. In fact, if I am honest, I'd have to say it was downright ugly. We went back to doing what I believe in and, luckily, it worked."