Never having won the FA Cup, or indeed made any sort of progress in recent years, Birmingham were happy enough to squeeze past Wimbledon and into the fifth round with a goal which they acknowledged might have been disallowed for offside.
As for poor Wimbledon, nothing goes right. Their manager, Stuart Murdoch, practised in the art of gallows humour, said, "There keeps being light at the end of the tunnel and then somebody turns it off." His team nearly helped their administrators by forcing a replay, and in the dying moments Maik Taylor atoned for much shaky goalkeeping by making a brilliant save to deny Joel McAnuff.
"I was very proud of all of them," said Murdoch. "They showed character, determination and spirit. I could ask no more of them, except to score a goal. We took a lot of credit from our display." True enough. The midweek disposal of Adam Nowland and Nigel Reo-Coker robbed them of two first-team regulars, so Wimbledon brought in Jamie Mackie and Ben Harding from their youth side and both were excellent. "We can't do anything about losing people," Murdoch said. "All we can do is keep going." Wimbledon did this to excellent effect and caused a flutter on the home terraces before Birmingham took the lead in the fourth minute. McAnuff's shot was followed by a scramble in the home goalmouth before Birmingham broke upfield. Stern John moved into the penalty box and his pass struck Clinton Morrison, who looked offside, before bouncing kindly for Bryan Hughes to finish.
As Murdoch pointed out, numbers are so sparse at his club that he was asking "an 18-year-old kid and his dad" (Jamie Mackie and Dean Holdsworth) to form the strike force. Though Holdsworth was well policed by his former Wimbledon team-mate Kenny Cunningham, Mackie was dangerous enough to alarm the Premiership side.
When Darren Purse slipped, Mackie had the loose ball in an instant, bursting through to shoot against the left-hand post. That is Wimbledon's sort of luck right now. Another mistake, this time by David Dunn, set Mackie sprinting away again for a pass to Wade Small which was driven inches the wrong side of an upright.
With Dunn their main source of inspiration, Birmingham had plenty of chances, too, especially in the first half. Dunn himself volleyed just beyond the angle of bar and post, and when he tried another shot which took a huge deflection, Steve Banks did well to back-pedal and push it over. Banks pulled off another fine save from Clinton Morrison to keep his side in with a hope at half-time and Wimbledon remained inventive and exuberant enough to cause Birmingham problems after the interval, though the longer it went the more assured Birmingham managed to look.
Dunn's departure with hamstring problems did not help Birmingham's cause, though his replacement, Mikael Forssell, almost scored after beating two defenders. Still, McAnuff's fine effort was the closest to a goal in those dying moments.
As Murdoch said, "My players are disappointed. They know they had a chance and a replay might have helped our money situation."
Birmingham City 1 Wimbledon 0
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 22,159Reuse content