Spirited Villa rewarded by Collins' leveller

Birmingham City 1 Aston Villa 1

With a smoke bomb, a thong-wearing streaker and a huge police presence, yesterday's Second City derby was as eventful off the pitch as on it. When the acrid fumes had cleared, Aston Villa had greater cause for satisfaction, having recovered from Roger Johnson's goal for Birmingham to equalise through James Collins and avoid a repeat of last month's Carling Cup defeat here.

The bigger picture shows that Villa have taken 15 points out of 51 under Gérard Houllier. However, the second Premier League stalemate between the sides this season lifted them out of the bottom three and kept them within a point of 16th-placed Birmingham. Given that only Wolves have a worse away record, Villa could even claim, especially after hitting the crossbar three times and at last mustering some fighting spirit, that this was a moral victory of sorts.

But the identity of the two scorers, who are both central defenders, underlined a weakness that continues to blight the neighbours' efforts to climb away from the relegation zone. Birmingham last savoured a goal from a striker nine games ago, when Cameron Jerome pounced at Stoke in November, while neither of Villa's principal attackers on this occasion, Gabriel Agbonlahor and the recalled John Carew, was able to break his duck in the league this season.

Both Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, and Villa's No 2, Gary McAllister, deputising for Houllier in front of the media, deemed it "a fair result". McLeish said: "I think we've come a long way in a couple of years in terms of these games. Had we been more clinical in front of goal at 1-0 up, we'd have seen it through."

McLeish was exasperated by the manner of Villa's goal, which had its origins in a weak kick by goalkeeper Ben Foster after a needless back-pass by Liam Ridgewell. Keith Fahey and Craig Gardner both had chances to clear before Marc Albrighton crossed, and Collins' volley was deflected past Foster by Ridgewell.

"It was unbelievable that we could get ourselves into a fankle like that," said McLeish. "The shot wasn't even on target. Everything that could've gone wrong did."

Birmingham's opener was equally scrappy from Villa's perspective. When Collins fouled Alexander Hleb outside the penalty area, loan signing David Bentley rolled the free-kick short for Gardner. The former Villa man's drive was wayward, but David Murphy flicked it into the danger zone and the ball deflected off Kyle Walker before Johnson reacted sharply to hook it past Brad Friedel from 10 yards.

"We felt we could have been two up in the first five minutes," McAllister argued, recalling that Agbonlahor had fired over from an excellent position inside 35 seconds. "We created good chances off the back of nervous defending by Birmingham. We're pleased to come from a goal behind though there's a wee tinge of disappointment that we haven't won."

The bar acted like a magnet to Villa's best efforts. Carew's header clipped it in the eighth minute, Ciaran Clark's cross slapped the same part of the goal-frame 15 minutes later and Foster tipped over a brutal 25-yard shot by substitute Nathan Delfouneso via the woodwork with six minutes remaining. Moments earlier, Ridgewell had cleared Richard Dunne's header off the line.

Matt Derbyshire – who, like Murphy and the lively Bentley, was making only his second league start this season – missed the ball completely when Gardner's cross gave him the chance to angle the ball into the net midway through the first half. Gardner volleyed wastefully wide and Nikola Zigic almost repeated his Carling Cup winner with a late header.

Birmingham also had a penalty appeal rejected after Albrighton sent Murphy tumbling, albeit with the slightest contact. "I've seen them given," reflected their manager, who expects centre-back Scott Dann to be out for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring.

McLeish, whose side face the Manchester clubs in their next two league fixtures, will now try to tie up the signings of Robbie Keane and Kenny Miller. "We're still waiting," he said. "I never like to shout from the rooftops about these things until they're confirmed." Villa have already completed the £5m capture of Lyons and Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun though they expect a two-week wait for a work permit.

There was no repetition of the violent disorder which marred last month's meeting, but the attendance, just over 22,000, was the second lowest at St Andrew's this season and the worst derby turnout of the Premier League era. "It's been a tough few years recession-wise," said McLeish.

Booked: Birmingham Carr. Villa Dunne, Collins.

Man of the match Ferguson.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance 22,287

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
books The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?