Wolves stifle Bruce's European hopes

Birmingham City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
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The Independent Football

These are buoyant times in the football wasteland that, for so long, has been the West Midlands.

Not that the point was necessarily appreciated by Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers come 2pm yesterday. The draw they fought out at St Andrew's - at times enterprisingly, at others routinely - satisfied neither in their respective pursuits.

During a weekend in which West Bromwich Albion were promoted and Aston Villa emerged as Champions' League contenders, Birmingham were left on the very fringes of the race for Europe and their visitors yesterday over the trapdoor leading to the First Division.

"It's highly unlikely now," said the manager Steve Bruce of Birmingham's chase for a Uefa Cup spot, while his Wolves counterpart, Dave Jones, insisted: "We're still there, still breathing. We have to cling to hope, however faint."

Any thoughts that Birmingham would find an easy way out of their four-match winless run were put to flight by Wolves' highly impressive opening. Too late in the day, they have found some extra quality to supplement their admirable workrate.

Henri Camara, having already shot wide on the run, laid a Colin Cameron pass back into the path of the Scottish midfielder, who finished exquisitely with a curling 20-yarder beyond Maik Taylor.

The engineer of that sixth minute breakthrough is the main reason why Wolves have not already been mathematically condemned to the fate that has appeared likely all season.

His reviving sequence of five goals in five games might have become six in six had he not allowed Jamie Clapham to get in a telling challenge when Cameron's pass gave him a clear sight of the target. As chances go, though, it was nothing like as clear cut as the one Stephen Clemence sidefooted wide after turning past Lee Naylor following a tremendous run and pass by Stan Lazaridis.

The midfielder's wastefulness did not look like being costly when Wolves saw a lead turn into deficit with more of the defensive disorder that makes their's the Premiership's worst goals-against record.

Mikael Forssell needed no greater invitation than the collective uncertain response to Matthew Upson's deep free-kick as he veered away from Isaac Okoronkwo and Paul Butler and rounded Paul Jones to plunder the equaliser with the high-quality opportunism that has brought him 19 goals this season.

Jones blamed "lazy play", presumably by Okoronkwo, for then smoothing Clinton Morrison's clear run through to the goal that made it 2-1 at the break from Forssell's pass.

Wolves rarely threatened an equaliser until getting one 15 minutes from time, Carl Cort responding quickest to toe-poke in after Taylor had failed to gather in Mark Kennedy's low long-range free-kick.

Goals: Cameron (6) 0-1; Forssell (34) 1-1; Morrison (41) 2-1; Cort (75) 2-2.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor 4; Martin Taylor 6 (John, 83), Cunningham 5, Upson 6, Clapham 6; Johnson 6, Savage 7, Clemence 6, Lazaridis 6 (Hughes, 5, 62); Morrison 6, Forssell 6. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Tebily, Cisse.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jones 6; Luzhny 5 (Ganea, 4, 62), Okoronkwo 4, Butler 5, Naylor 5; Newton 5, Ince 6, Cameron 7 (Miller, 88), Kennedy 5 (Rae, 84); Cort 6, Camara 7. Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Craddock.

Referee: M Dean (Merseyside) 7.

Bookings: Birmingham: Savage.

Man of the match: Savage.

Attendance: 29,494.