Fans feel blue but Birmingham keep unbeaten record
Birmingham City 0 Wigan Athletic 0
Sunday 26 September 2010
Equalling their longest unbeaten run in the top flight in the club's history should have been a cause for celebration for Birmingham City, but there was no disguising the crowd's frustration. Although it is now exactly a year and 18 Premier League matches since Alex McLeish's team lost at home, this turgid affair was instantly forgettable.
Whether or not it was down to the pressure of maintaining that run, Birmingham's football rarely flowed. Cameron Jerome, playing as a lone striker for most of the match, worked hard but to little effect, Alexander Hleb was peripheral out wide and it was left to Sebastian Larsson on the right flank to provide their rare moments of inspiration.
Wigan, who have yet to concede an away goal this season, were not stretched and might have taken all three points had they shown more ambition. Hugo Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia both threatened but too often Wigan's counter-attacks broke down on the edge of the penalty area. N'Zogbia coped well with the hostile home crowd who booed him throughout after his move to St Andrews broke down last month when Birmingham refused to meet hispay demands.
In the early stages Wigan looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Scott Dann's block kept out Rodallega's shot after a run by N'Zogbia who then tested Ben Foster with a drive from 20 yards which the goalkeeper pushed over.
Larsson, however, soon began to have an influence. Jerome should have done better when heading wide at the far post from a searching centre and Birmingham went even closer from two excellent free kicks by Larsson just before the break. Roger Johnson narrowly missed with a header from the first and then Jerome had his close-range effort saved by Ali Al-Habsi.
Johnson headed wide from another Larsson free kick after 52 minutes but with Birmingham creating little the crowd began chanting for a change to four-four-two. After an hour McLeish obliged, bringing on Nikola Zigic to partner Jerome in attack but the lumbering Serb made little impact.
A ragged contest ended when Craig Gardner was shown a red card after 87 minutes for a reckless tackle that left Franco Di Santo with cuts to his leg. "His leading foot was really high," Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, said of Gardner's challenge, adding that he was concerned that Di Santo might also have suffered ligament damage.
McLeish had no complaints about Mark Clattenburg's decision. If it was a disappointing end to the afternoon for the Birmingham manager, he was still proud of his team's performance.
"There was a lot of pressure on us today due to the media coverage of the unbeaten record," McLeish said. "I felt it could be one of those occasions when people were looking at us to get egg on our faces. I'm sure there were lots of people predicting that we would lose."
Referee: M Clattenburg
Man of the match: Larsson
Match rating: 3/10
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