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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Sergio Aguero prepares for the game

Follow the latest events from this Champions League fixture

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album