The midfielder risks the wrath of Stuart Pearce if there is any repeat of his much publicised behaviour during the summer tour of Thailand. Barton was involved in a flare-up with Everton supporters and his outburst led to City skipper Richard Dunne breaking his foot after he had tried to restrain his team-mate.
But Barton is making a determined effort to mend his ways and he was a key figure against Birmingham as they recovered from falling behind to an early goal from Nicky Butt. Barton scored the equaliser and was a dominant figure in the centre of the park before summer signing Andy Cole grabbed a second half winner.
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce had warned beforehand that Cole is still a quality act at the age of 33 and his fears were well founded as the former Manchester United star led the line with style and was a constant threat. Manchester City were also well served by the returning Dunne after he had proved his fitness for the Republic of Ireland in midweek. Birmingham flattered to deceive with Jermaine Pennant's early threat on the right flank fizzling out and Walter Pandiani's tireless efforts up front proving in vain.
They clearly missed the injured Emile Heskey with Mikael Forssell still short of match fitness after his lengthy lay-off following knee surgery. David James - part of England's sorry second half capitulation in Denmark in midweek - was alert enough to beat out a dipping drive from Pandiani after a quickly taken free-kick from the alert Butt had created the opening. Pandiani sent a flick header past the far post from Pennant's corner in a promising start by the home side although the woodwork came to their rescue after six minutes.
Danny Mills did well to put in a powerfully driven cross from the right flank and Cole was the first to react with a powerful header which thudded against the crossbar with Maik Taylor well beaten. But within 60 seconds Blues went ahead through Butt's first goal since his summer loan move from Manchester United. Julian Gray did well to send over a deep cross from the left when under pressure, Pandiani headed back across goal and Butt steadied himself before drilling a powerful shot past James. Pennant squandered a golden chance to double Birmingham's lead after 14 minutes when he sidefooted a cross from Forssell wide.
But Stuart Pearce's side were playing their full part in an open game and in the 21st minute Barton brought them back on level terms. Cole's pass played in Darius Vassell and, although Taylor came out to save at his feet, the ball broke loose to Barton who coolly drilled it into the far corner of the net. Birmingham retaliated and had strong claims for a penalty rejected when Butt appeared to be brought down by Stephen Jordan. The home player was incensed at the decision of referee Mark Clattenburg and was booked for protesting too strongly to the Tyneside official.
Pennant was becoming an increasing threat on the right flank and one run ended with a slide-rule pass into the path of Stephen Clemence - but Mills was alert to his run into the box. But in the 47th minute Cole put the visitors ahead with a superb finish for his first goal since he joined from Fulham. Sinclair floated a cross to the far post and Cole was in acres of space but there was still no mistaking the quality of his finish as he drilled a low shot past Taylor into the bottom corner of the net. Clemence was rightly booked by Clattenburg for a late challenge on Barton after he had initially allowed City the advantage of possession.
James blocked a left-footed effort from Gray and at the other end Cole was left fuming at Vassell who elected to shoot when he was unmarked and the chance went begging. Kiki Musampa almost wrapped up the points for City but Taylor just managed to adjust and turn his low left-footed drive around the post.
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- Birmingham City FC
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