Newcastle Utd 1 Birmingham City 0

Taylor clanger plumbs the depths
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The Independent Football

Last weekend Bruce's team were on the losing end of a goalkeeping misjudgement that allowed Simon Davies to steal victory for Everton at St Andrew's. Yesterday they were on top against Newcastle and threatening to claim more than a third point in eight Premiership matches when Maik Taylor was caught out by a shot that swerved through the middle of a crowded goalmouth.

Instead of blocking Emre Belezoglu's 77th-minute effort, the Birmingham keeper merely wafted it on its way into the Gallowgate End net, behind which, once upon a time, his manager used to stand idolising Malcolm Macdonald and Tony Green.

Last year Bruce spurned the chance to take over as manager of his once-beloved black-and- whites. Now he finds himself in charge of a Birmingham side in danger of submerging with Sunderland into the depths of the Premiership. His Blues have lost five League games in succession now.

"It's difficult for me to come in here and speak after that," Bruce said, as he took his seat in the press room. "It was a mistake, a howler. The shot was in the middle of the goal. But I'm convinced we can turn it around, when I watch us play like that." With five men in midfield and Emile Heskey alone up front, Bruce's men succeeded in stifling Newcastle in a first half desperately short of excitement at either end.

A curling Emre free-kick did force a save from Taylor after 17 minutes but it was not until half-time approached that Newcastle showed any real attacking teeth. Even then, it was a fleeting glimpse, Nolberto Solano bending a free-kick into the side-netting and Charles N'Zogbia unleashing a stinging drive that was desperately charged down by Muzzy Izzet.

At the other end, Jiri Jarosik sent a couple of volleys flashing narrowly off target before the interval, and Birmingham proceeded to build up attacking momentum after the break. Jarosik rattled the woodwork with a rasping right-footed drive, and then Matthew Upson missed a sitter of a chance, glancing a header wide with the home goal at his mercy.

Birmingham were starting to take control - with Neil Kilkenny, in only his second Premiership game, and Izzet, playing his first match for 13 months, getting a grip in central midfield. With Jarosik and Jermaine Pennant threatening on the break, City were looking the likelier winners. Emile Heskey came close to putting them in front in the 73rd minute, drawing a fine reflex save from Shay Given. But then, four minutes later, Emre dispatched his bolt from the blue, Taylor got stuck on the goal-line, and the Blues were beaten once again.

It was announced after the final whistle that Alan Shearer would be travelling to Munich today in readiness for a hernia operation. But for Steve Bruce and struggling Birmingham, there seems no end to the suffering in sight.

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