Birmingham City 1 West Ham United 2: Harewood crowns recovery as injury toll undermines Birmingham

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The Independent Online

It was at St Andrew's that West Ham United were condemned to relegation three seasons ago. Last night they withstood a second-half battering to register their second Premiership away victory of 2005-06 and leave Birmingham City increasingly fretful of the drop this time round.

The anguish of the bottom-but-one club was not confined to the fact they wasted an 11th-minute lead given them by Emile Heskey in his 350th League appearance. Even more alarming in their injury-ravaged season was the loss of Mario Melchiot, Muzzy Izzet and Martin Taylor by half-time. It is now one point from seven home matches and nothing is changing.

Birmingham's first home game for more than five weeks started on a depressingly familiar note, Melchiot lasting only nine minutes before what looked a recurrence of his recent knee injury.

What happened next, though, was nothing like as predictable. David Dunn dispossessed Yossi Benayoun near the half-way line and threaded a delightful pass beyond Anton Ferdinand for Emile Heskey to round Roy Carroll superbly and keep his balance to score with an angled left-foot shot. It was the striker's first Premiership goal since late August and only his club's fourth at home in the League.

Birmingham were still adjusting to Melchiot's loss when they were forced into another change. Izzet, one of the long-term occupants of the St Andrew's treatment room, suffered a kick to the knee while challenging Hayden Mullins and could play no further part.

When the equaliser came in the 36th minute, it was from a piece of sublime skill from Bobby Zamora. He lifted the ball over Taylor's head from a quick throw by Harewood, shimmied past Damien Johnson with control of the highest order and stabbed a right-footed shot through Vaesen's legs.

Sprightly West Ham took further advantage of Birmingham's woes in first-half injury time as Harewood slammed home at the far post after two defenders and Benayoun had failed to make clean contact with a pull-back from Matthew Etherington. Vaesen complained bitterly that Etherington had taken the ball out of play before crossing from the left, though his protests masked suspect defending by Steve Bruce's team.

Dunn, now pushed forward alongside Heskey, did most to encourage Birmingham that the tide could be turned for a second time. He ended the first half with a shot that was deflected narrowly wide and, with Neil Kilkenny on for Taylor as his side's third substitute, launched the second with a skidding 25-yarder that Carroll smothered.

Nicky Butt was well off target when connecting spectacularly at shoulder height with Johnson's cross, but crucially failed to control Carroll's unconvincing punch to a centre by Kilkenny when a clear shooting chance beckoned on the edge of the area.

The outstanding Dunn hit the outside of the post and Matt Upson skied over from six yards before Heskey was booked for turning in Jermaine Pennant's cross with his hand.

Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Vaesen; Melchiot (Lazaridis, 9), Cunningham, Martin Taylor (Kilkenny, h-t), Upson; Pennant, Johnson, Izzet (Butt, 23), Gray; Dunn; Heskey. Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor (gk), Jarosik.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Carroll; Repka, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun (Newton, 90), Mullins, Noble (Dailly, 78), Etherington; Zamora (Bellion, 69), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Clarke.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

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