It's not only the responsibility that comes with fathering eight-month-old twins, Charlie and Amelie, that has shunted Lee Bowyer into unfamiliar territory. The on-field maturity he has found at Birmingham City this season has kept him on a tight rein of his own.
Not for nine years has the midfielder finished with more goals than red and yellow cards, but the winner he plundered with what his manager Alex McLeish called "a world-class finish" at saturated St Andrew's leaves him well placed to do so in a campaign in which he will turn 33. Bowyer has already scored four times since turning his loan spell into a permanent two-year deal – twice as many as anyone else in the club or as he delivered throughout 2008-09.
"I just like playing and enjoying my football," Bowyer explained. "Days like this make waking up on Sunday mornings worthwhile. I wouldn't say I took a gamble coming here because they were unlucky to go down the season before last. It would have been easy just to pick up my money at West Ham because London is my home but I didn't want to be sitting watching football; I'll be doing that when I finish."
Bowyer also picked up a first booking of the season and McLeish recognised that the former firebrand still needs careful managing when the red mist descends. But, with the equally combative Barry Ferguson alongside, Birmingham have some serious backbone even before opponents see the whites of the eyes of the colossal Roger Johnson.
Birmingham's defending was outstanding, so much so that Fulham, via a powerful second-half header by Clint Dempsey, brought only one save from Joe Hart in slipping to their first defeat in six League games. "They work hard and have a good team spirit," said visiting midfielder Jonathan Greening. "We just couldn't break them down."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFadden; Jerome, Benitez (Fahey, 71). Substitutes not used: Maik Taylor (gk), Phillips, McSheffrey, Carsley, Vignal, Mutch.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly (Duff, 74), Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Baird (Etuhu, 81), Greening, Gera; Dempsey, Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Pantsil, Riise, E Johnson, Smalling.
Booked: Birmingham Bowyer.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: R Johnson.
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