Two games into his career as a Premiership manager, Portsmouth's Alain Perrin still awaits his first experience of defeat, having watched his new charges frustrate all of Birmingham's best efforts to follow up last weekend's unexpected point at Chelsea with a fourth win in five at St Andrew's.
Given the makeshift nature of Portsmouth's injury-hit defence, Perrin could draw some satisfaction from the resilience shown by his players. Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, was frustrated by his side's performance, describing it as "painful to watch", but they did enough to win and Perrin admitted as much. "Birmingham were physically more aggressive than we were, the pressure they put on us was very high," he said. "It was a difficult point for us to win."
The home side may not have met their manager's high standards but more than once their opponents required timely moments of excellence by Jamie Ashdown in the Portsmouth goal to stay on level terms.
Ashdown's fingertip contact with a Jermaine Pennant cross during a scrappy first half probably denied Walter Pandiani a goal. In the second half, Ashdown thwarted the Uruguayan again, spreading himself to save as the striker attempted to turn Emile Heskey's headed flick-on into his fourth Birmingham goal.
Last weekend's win over Charlton in Perrin's first game in charge eased Portsmouth's relegation worries, and results earlier yesterday enhanced the value of the cushion that victory created. But injuries forced the Frenchman to change his side, which made their performance all the more creditable. Matt Taylor, Dejan Stefanovic and the top scorer Yakubu Aiyegbeni were all ruled out.
Portsmouth's first attack created a chance for Lomana LuaLua, whose header from a Gary O'Neil cross was only inches wide. But Birmingham were the stronger force. Aliou Cissé, the former Birmingham midfielder standing in at right-back for Portsmouth, was given a rigorous examination by the winger Stan Lazaridis, who twice went close to giving Bruce's side first blood.
On the other flank, Pennant demonstrated the value of a regular supply of accurate crosses. On the end of one, only a big leap by Linvoy Primus denied Heskey a more effective header. Early in the second half, as Birmingham stepped up the tempo, Primus hooked the ball to safety after Heskey's header looped goalwards and then Ashdown spread himself to block Pandiani's shot.
Portsmouth did not spend the remainder of the match in their own half. O'Neil skipped around Mario Melchiot before testing the Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor, who not only blocked O'Neil's shot but also, crucially, knocked the loose ball away as Diomansy Kamara prepared to strike.
A goal then would have been hard on the home side, no matter how much Bruce reckoned they fell short.Reuse content