Birmingham City 2 Wigan Athletic 0: Pennant raises signal for fightback to begin

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The Independent Football

Watching Birmingham has been a frustrating experience this season but enthusiasm for the struggle clearly remains strong. Every seat at St Andrew's was taken for the visit of the Premiership's most promising newcomer and the reward for those keeping the faith was the opportunity to celebrate a home win for only the second time this season.

Two goals before half-time flattened out some of the worry lines on the face of the manager Steve Bruce, although it will take more than one good afternoon to remove the fear of relegation. Wigan, still surveying their new surroundings from the top six after their extraordinary start, ought to be immune from any such threat but their manager, Paul Jewell, admitted he had cause for concern after two defeats in three days, and feared some of his players were becoming complacent.

"I hope it is just a bit of tiredness but in this game and against Blackburn on Saturday there was no spark at all," he said. "I'm rarely angry but I am today. Maybe one or two players are starting to believe their own publicity. You can't just sit back and expect things to happen."

Bruce had condemned his side's performance in a humiliating defeat at Manchester City last month and confessed to fearing for his job if it were repeated. Happily for him, Birmingham have pulled themselves together with some more encouraging displays, although none had resulted in a win before yesterday

They dominated the first half and the two goals by which they led within the opening 33 minutes were an accurate reflection. Jermaine Pennant, whose poor crosses from a couple of early set-piece opportunities had brought groans from the home crowd, redeemed himself with the opener after 20 minutes. At 5ft 8in, he is hardly on obvious target man but he clearly slipped under the radar as David Wright attempted to deal with Jiri Jarosik's cross from the left and his header beat Mike Pollitt before rebounding in off the opposite upright.

Birmingham deserved to be ahead and when Mario Melchiot struck their second they had control. Again Wigan's defending was woeful. They got away with allowing Stan Lazaridis freedom of their penalty area when Pennant found him with a corner, but the clearance from his fluffed header went only as far as Muzzy Izzet, just outside the box. Stephane Henchoz blocked Izzet's shot but when the ball ran loose the first to react was Melchiot, gleefully hitting the back of Wigan's net from six yards.

Melchiot was withdrawn at half-time with an injury but Matthew Upson was a surprise starter after predictions of a long absence when he damaged an ankle at Chelsea on Saturday. Wigan were rarely a threat and remained vulnerable at the back. They would have conceded a third had Emile Heskey not miscued horribly when Taylor's downward header invited him to make the points safe.

A sore throat prevented Bruce from delivering a verdict on this performance but whatever he said in the wake of the Manchester City defeat hit home. "Maybe that will prove to be the turning point," his assistant, Eric Black, said.

Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Maik Taylor; Melchiot (Martin Taylor, h-t), Cunningham, Upson, Lazaridis; Pennant, Johnson, Izzet (Kilkenny, 84), Gray; Jarosik (Pandiani 74); Heskey. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Butt.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Wright; Bullard (Kavanagh 73), Skoko (Teale h-t), Francis, McCulloch (Connolly 71); Roberts, Camara. Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Jackson.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

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