So much of a team's success depends on confidence, so much of a manager's stock on perception. These things determine the difference between Burnley and Birmingham.
For all that they have leaked goals alarmingly in four straight defeats away from home, Burnley take to their own Turf Moor brimming with self-belief. This was their fourth home win from four. Their fans hail their manager – as it happens, a dutifully religious man – by holding up banners proclaiming "Owen Coyle is God".
Birmingham's form has not seen such swings. One 0-0 draw apart, all their games have been settled by a single-goal margin. Unfortunately, five have ended in defeat and their confidence is low. Last week, player-turned-critic Stan Collymore accused their manager, Alex McLeish, of "cowardly tactics." It stemmed from McLeish's preference for fielding only one striker, which has sparked supporters to respond to unproductive passages of play by chanting "4-4-2". Here he stuck with one and, given the result, must have known the issue would be raised again.
"The formation is 4-5-1 when you are defending, but 4-3-3 when you are attacking," McLeish said. "Burnley played the same way. We did not have one defensive midfielder. We have not played negatively in any of our games."
The difference came down to conviction. Burnley had more of that – and some luck, arguably, given that Lee Bowyer made a hash of an open goal in the first half and Joe Hart dived the wrong way as Steven Fletcher, Coyle's record signing from Hibernian, scored his first Premier League goal.
Birmingham's spirits sank and when Andre Bikey, a revelation in central midfield, buried Burnley's second after a slick one-two with David Nugent, they were beaten. Seb Larsson's fine free-kick goal in stoppage time was not even celebrated.
Momentarily, McLeish looked as if he might mimic his own mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, who famously lost his temper when they questioned his signing of Juan Sebastian Veron. He stopped short of that, but only just. "I know a lot more about the game than most of these critics – more than the lot of them, in fact," McLeish said.
Burnley (4-1-3-2): Jensen; Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan; Bikey; Alexander, Elliott, Blake (Kalvanes, 89); Fletcher (Eagles, 73), Nugent (Thompson, 86). Substitutes not used: Penny (gk), Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson.
Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Queudrue (Ridgewell, h-t); McFadden, Ferguson, Tainio (Phillips, 67), Fahey (Larsson, h-t); Bowyer; O'Connor. Substitutes not used: M Taylor (gk), McSheffrey, O'Shea, Carsley.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire)
Bookings: Birmingham: Dann, Ferguson, Carr.
Man of the match: Bikey.Reuse content