Birmingham's winning run is extended by Jerome double

Birmingham City 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
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Sixth place in the Premier League, above 18-time champions Liverpool and the moneybags of Manchester City, and with a £40m war chest for Alex McLeish to build from a position of strength – this really is Bluenose-bleed territory for Birmingham and their followers.

Cameron Jerome struck at the start of either half, trebling his tally for the season, and although Ryan Nelsen prompted late pressure with Blackburn's first league goal in 446 minutes' action, Birmingham deservedly recorded a fifth consecutive top-flight victory for the first time since 1973.

Trevor Francis was the idol of St Andrew's in those days, and he was present to witness the extraordinary revivalist fervour sweeping Birmingham. This, remember, is a club whose highest-ever finish is fifth place. Now a tussle for a European place, rather than the widely anticipated relegation struggle, could be on the new-year agenda.

McLeish, whose job security was under scrutiny until he guided Birmingham to promotion last spring, spoke of his "pride" in his players. The former Scotland manager added: "Now we need to challenge the players before every game. 'Do you want to take your foot off the gas or do you really want to go for it?"'

Pressed on the possibility of recruiting stellar names when the transfer window opens, McLeish insisted he would not go for "a big galactico" if it "upset the dressing-room". What is changing with each win, though, is Birmingham's attractiveness to players. As his Blackburn counterpart Sam Allardyce acknowledged, such a winning run represents "a major achievement".

McLeish's men were ahead after 12 minutes. Sebastian Larsson's cross skimmed off a Blackburn head to an unmarked Christian Benitez. His header deflected off Liam Ridgewell to Jerome, who steered it over the line from spitting distance.

Another surge, immediately after the break, delivered a second goal. Larsson again unhinged the Blackburn defence, his neat overhead flick down the right flank releasing Stephen Carr on the overlap. The full-back's cut-back to around the penalty spot was precision itself and drew an appropriately crisp first-time finish by Jerome.

Yet with 21 minutes remaining, Blackburn surprised themselves and Birmingham by scoring. When Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick found Pascal Chimbonda lurking beyond the back post, Joe Hart could only claw the ball to Nelsen, who hooked it home. Allardyce's side at last showed positive intent only to discover why Hart and co have the division's fourth-best goals-against record. Indeed, the hosts looked more likely to add their modest total of eight home goals on the counter.

The pocket-sized Benitez, having given Nelsen and Christophe Samba a torrid time with his relentless running, wearily scooped an 88th-minute sitter against the bar from five yards. Blackburn almost levelled in stoppage time, Nikola Kalinic's header striking the outstanding Larsson on the line.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Fahey, 82); Benitez, Jerome. Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor (gk), Phillips, McSheffrey, O'Shea, Carsley, Vignal.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Diouf (Hoilett, 53), Emerton (Andrews, 22), Nzonzi, Pedersen; Roberts (McCarthy, 71), Kalinic. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Jacobsen, Di Santo, Salgado.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).

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