Bowyer's bright form deepens gloom for Zola

Birmingham City 1 West Ham United 0

Family ties did not stop Lee Bowyer delivering another painful blow at the end of a difficult week for ailing West Ham. The 32-year-old east Londoner is from a family of Hammers supporters but it was his goal seven minutes into the second half that left his former club in the bottom three of the Premier League.

It gave Birmingham a fourth consecutive victory and a run of seven unbeaten to defend at home to Blackburn on Tuesday, when they will be confident of maintaining their unaccustomed proximity to the leading group. West Ham go to Bolton the same evening for a fixture, even at this stage of the season, that will be labelled a six-pointer.

Bowyer's goal, capping the latest in a series of excellent displays in his attacking midfield role, was particularly uncomfortable for Gianfranco Zola, for whom he made only six appearances before he was allowed to switch to St Andrew's on loan last January in a move that became permanent at the beginning of this season, with no transfer fee involved.

"It does not surprise me that he is playing such a key role at Birmingham and I'm pleased for him that he is being successful," Zola said. "But when he left West Ham it was at a time when he was coming back from injury, was not playing regularly and needed games.

"The financial situation did not help when the move was made permanent but there were other reasons for letting him go. The possibility for him to play regularly was not there with us."

His current manager does not underestimate the bargain he acquired when Bowyer opted to stay in the Midlands. "I don't know what price you would put on him now," Alex McLeish said. "I knew he had quality and sometimes it just needs the right atmosphere for a player to shine and I know things were not right for him at West Ham.

"But he has succeeded my expectations. He loves the atmosphere in the dressing room and the training ground here and it has given him a new lease of life."

Birmingham probably should have scored more goals. Cameron Jerome, denied by Rob Green in the fourth minute, headed a good chance over the bar just before half-time. After the break, Liam Ridgewell knocked the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score and Christian Benitez, clear after Julien Faubert's stumble, dragged his shot wide.

Nonetheless, there were reasons for West Ham to feel they are not enjoying the best of luck. In the week in which Dean Ashton, the striker in whom Zola had such high hopes, reached the sad end of an agonising line in his ultimately doomed battle to continue his career, his team's shortcomings up front were again uncomfortably visible, although their Italian forward, Alessandro Diamanti, had a frustrating afternoon.

Having gone within inches, twice, of sneaking shots the right side of the posts in the first half, he went close twice more in the second half before the sight of a curled free kick bending away late as West Ham gamely chased an equaliser proved just too much for him, causing him to tear open the front of his shirt.

To make matters worse, Zola's side had Mark Noble sent off with 12 minutes left after referee Lee Mason booked him twice in six minutes, the first time for dissent, the second for a tackle from behind.

Zola had not cared for Mason's performance even before that. "Referees are human and make mistakes but he made too many today," he said. "And I didn't like the way he reacted when some of my players complained at the end. We had a right to complain."

Attendance: 28,203

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Bowyer

Match rating: 5/10

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'