Life becomes no easier for troubled Portsmouth, on the field at least. At the end of a day on which their likely takeover was declared imminent, James McFadden's stoppage-time penalty leaves them pointless as well as goalless after two games – and nursing a grievance to boot.
The award against David James that brought Birmingham City their winner looked harsh and led to bookings for both the keeper and his defender Younes Kaboul. As relevant, though, as the question of whether the assistant referee was right to signal that Sebastian Larsson was fouled when bowled over, is that of whether the England No 1 should have been haring along his byline at all in pursuit of a Kevin Phillips shot that looped away from danger off a Pompey head.
"I was going to catch it and the guy stepped in front of me," said James, who played in a shocking all-pink kit in support of a breast cancer charity. "There was nothing I could do about it, so I'm not best pleased."
James had seemed capable of keeping out limited opponents, particularly when he brilliantly pushed wide Phillips' first-time volley. But he was sent the wrong way by McFadden's penalty, which was followed by a furious counter-offensive in which Niko Kranjcar and Kanu both went close.
It was an exciting finale a turgid contest barely deserved. At least an end appears in sight to Portsmouth's ownership dilemma. Their chief executive Peter Storrie is fronting a new consortium vying for control and the manager Paul Hart said afterwards: "There might be a successful outcome. I think it could be imminent." The group is rumoured in some south-coast quarters to include Holger Heim, a German businessman linked with a buyout of Chelsea earlier this summer, although Storrie again watched last night in the company of long-time suitor Sulaiman al-Fahim.
Larsson squandered Birmingham's best chance of the first half by lifting a free header over the bar from Gregory Vignal's deep centre. Portsmouth seldom made inroads in the first half, although Marc Wilson's fine work made room for the debutant Anthony Vanden Borre to scoop harmlessly over from an angle.
Frédéric Piquionne, then Kranjcar's free-kick, made token demands of Joe Hart but the flow of the game was not helped by the departure of Pompey midfielder Papa Bouba Diop with a hamstring problem and Birmingham's Vignal and Cameron Jerome in quick succession, also through injury.
Not that Alex McLeish was anything other than happy at the end. "James was over-zealous in his challenge and we'll take the decision," said Birmingham's manager. "It was very important we got that first win."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Queudrue, Vignal (Parnaby, 49); Larsson, Ferguson, Fahey, McFadden; Jerome (Phillips, 54), O'Connor (Benitez, 81). Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor (gk), McSheffrey, O'Shea, Carsley.
Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Wilson, Kaboul, Distin, Belhadj; Vanden Borre (Utaka, h-t), Mullins, Mokoena, Diop (Basinas, 42), Kranjcar; Piquionne (Kanu, 79). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Hughes, Nugent, Ward.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Birmingham City None; Portsmouth Basinas, Piquionne, James, Mullins, Kaboul.
Man of the match: Distin.
Attendance: 19,922.Reuse content