Derby day looms in the second city, at Villa Park a week today, lending extra significance to Birmingham's second victory of an anticlimactic season and only their third in 19 Premier League fixtures. Goals by Liam Ridgewell and Nikola Zigic tarnished the best away record in the top flight, and gallantly as Blackpool strove, they found themselves outmanoeuvred by the home side's manager, Alex McLeish.
For Birmingham, having scraped only two goals in their previous five matches, this was tantamount to a glut. They were assisted by some defensive largesse from Blackpool, whose captain, Charlie Adam, followed up his headed own goal against Blackburn by presenting Zigic with an open goal, an invitation even the lumbering Serb could not refuse.
McLeish hailed "a big win" for Birmingham yet claimed his focus was on Tuesday's Carling Cup match with Brentford rather than on trying to arrest a six-game losing run against Aston Villa.
Blackpool's 3,000 followers were still belting out their anthem – "This is the best trip I've ever been on" – after the final whistle. Ian Holloway was equally sanguine, explaining that he told Adam not to be "silly" after the Scot apologised for his mistake. "I thought they were better than us, but only just," the Blackpool manager added. "Their manager beat me with his experience and tactics, playing with a midfield diamond I didn't expect. I can't really criticise my players. You have to deal with set-pieces but they have five or six so tall they could be roof inspectors."
Birmingham's previous win over Blackpool at St Andrew's was a 7-1 rout on New Year's Eve in 1994, when the clubs were in the third tier. Despite the visitors' habit of being involved in high-scoring affairs, there was never much prospect of an eight-goal thriller here, McLeish's side having scored three times in only one of their previous 72 League matches.
Yet the early stages suggested that if anyone could trick Birmingham into a mini-spree it was Holloway's team. Twice in the first 12 minutes they were horribly exposed. First, Keith Fahey was tripped by Neal Eardley, but Matt Gilks tipped over Sebastian Larsson's free-kick. Then Alexander Hleb, whose position behind the front two caused Blackpool severe difficulties, sent Garry O'Connor clear only for Craig Cathcart to stop him with a last-ditch challenge.
The flip side of Blackpool's defensive openness is an ability to break forward in numbers. They had already shown positive intent, Birmingham surviving a ninth-minute penalty appeal after Ridgewell appeared to handle, when David Vaughan slid in a split second too late to convert Stephen Crainey's 27th-minute cross.
Birmingham celebrated the reprieve with their first home goal in 325 minutes' play stretching back to August. From a Larsson corner, the 6ft 8in Zigic, almost banging his head against the bar, contrived to nod against the woodwork. Ridgewell, following up, stooped to head home.
The burly Adam was anything but overshadowed by Barry Ferguson in the duel between the two former Rangers playmakers, but he gifted Birmingham a second goal. Again the initial danger came from a Larsson corner which Ridgewell, lurking beyond the far post, hooked back across goal. Adam took possession, yet instead of clearing his lines he turned back inside towards his own goal. His control betrayed him, allowing Zigic to poke his third goal of the season and the first by a Birmingham forward on home territory since March.
Adam, having tried to redeem himself with a shot which tested Ben Foster, was promptly withdrawn. Blackpool poured forward, but a swerving drive by the tireless Vaughanwhich Foster smothered was the most they could muster as the great "trip" took an unfortunate detour.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the match: Hleb
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content