Johnson deepens the gloom for Bruce

Birmingham City 0 - Crystal Palace 1

This was billed as a grudge match, but there was neither soup, nor pizza, in sight and, at the final whistle, hordes of Birmingham City's disgruntled supporters headed home as the remainder stood and booed. In their first top-flight meeting with the Blues since 1981, Iain Dowie's Palace, courtesy of a clinical 41st-minute finish from their in-form marksman and former Birmingham player Andy Johnson, deservedly secured their first away win and third victory in four Premiership outings with a classic counter-attacking performance.

The goal, taken with cold-blooded finesse, was the highlight of an otherwise dour encounter. Birmingham, short of confidence, fluency and ideas, relied too much on their right-flank combination of the former Chelsea duo Mario Melchiot and Jesper Gronkjaer, their outstanding performers, and wasted several openings. Palace, well-drilled, resourceful and dogged, soaked up the pressure, rode their luck and broke with pace and venom. It was Birmingham's second successive single-goal home defeat this week.

"It is easy to see our problems," said the Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce. "You cannot win a football match unless you can score a goal." He made it clear that he spread the responsibility beyond the hapless front pairing of Dwight Yorke and Emile Heskey, but, in truth, he was only being polite. Gronkjaer provided a consistent service of crosses from the flanks. The central strikers played as if they had yet to be introduced and demonstrated all the subtle understanding of astronauts lost in space.

After five draws, it was Birmingham's first defeat in six League outings. Dowie, commanding and instructing from the touchline, did not gloat. He talked afterwards of his side's poor technique, poor passing and said it was Johnson's worst game this season. That it brought his eighth goal and endorsed slightly fanciful claims of an England call-up was not lost on Dowie. "If it was Northern Ireland, I would back him," said the manager. "But I want to keep him at Palace." To that end, Dowie has Johnson signed on a five-year contract.

Johnson took his goal literally in his stride. When Damien Johnson lost possession cheaply to Ben Hughes in midfield, the ball ricocheted to Wayne Routledge. His 30-yard run drew out the Birmingham defence and a carefully weighted pass sent the striker streaking through the inside-right channel to glide a low shot beyond Maik Taylor and inside the far post.

Only four minutes earlier, Birmingham had gone as close as they would in the contest. A free-kick on the left from Robbie Savage bounced off Melchiot's shoulder and, with the eccentric Gabor Kiraly beaten, appeared sure to go in until Fitz Hall cleared off his own line. This opportunity capped a frantic spell of pressure from Birmingham and, deflated by the goal, and the blind alley runs of their strikers, the home side grew desperate. Darren Anderton was introduced and showed why he is no longer playing for Tottenham, though, to be fair, his efforts to encourage a shorter passing game were wasted in the surroundings.

Gronkjaer blazed over, Yorke saw one effort saved and Kiraly, a Hungarian recruited from Hertha Berlin who played in an outfit that resembled an unwashed Gulag prisoner's kit, stopped everything else. Only Melchiot, the home side's best player, appeared capable of equalising, but he saw his best shots saved and fly wide in the closing minutes before the excellent Dermot Gallagher blew for time.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books