Hunt keeps Birmingham in the hunt

Football: Birmingham City 2 Leicester City 2
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JAMES WOODWARD

Birmingham City 2 Leicester City 2

A stirring fightback by Birmingham City at St Andrews yesterday ensured the race for a Premiership place remains as deadlocked as ever.

Birmingham, who had seven players absent and dropped an eighth from the side which lost an unbeaten 15-match run to Derby County in midweek, came from two goals down after only 16 minutes to deny their Midland neighbours the three points which would have taken Leicester City back to the top of the First Division.

Even then the visitors' greater composure threatened to bring them victory over a Birmingham side in which three players - the on-loan Danny Hill, David Preece and Swedish striker Dan Sahlin - were making their debuts, while the 6ft 7in Kevin Francis was returning after a seven-month absence.

Fry claimed he picked Francis to distract Leicester from the fact that "we don't have a defence". They were not fooled. Simon Grayson found acres of space in the ninth minute to cross for Iwan Roberts, whose first shot was saved by Ian Bennett before the striker turned in the loose ball for his 11th goal of the season.

Grayson claimed the second for himself with a shot deflected from the shoulder of Francis and at that point Birming- ham were in danger of being routed. However, Jonathan Hunt scored his eighth goal of the season, firing in from the edge of the area on the half-hour to revive the home side's hopes and four minutes after the break the same player converted a penalty after John Frain had been floored by Scott Taylor.

Fry threw on two new strikers, but Leicester looked more threatening and their manager, Mark McGhee, claimed afterwards: "We have played another of the top contenders and we are better than them."

Fry was happy to take a point and will further strengthen his squad today with the loan signing of Barcelona's Ronnie Ekelund, the Danish international, who will make his debut in the Coca-Cola Cup at Middlesbrough on Wednesday.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Bennett; Forsyth, Whyte, Johnson, Frain; Hill (Sahlin, 74), Castle (Lowe, 67), Preece, Hunt; Claridge, Francis (Charlery, 67).

Leicester City (3-5-2): Poole; Hill, Whitlow, Carey; Grayson, Parker, Taylor, Lowe, Rolling; Robins (Heskey, 87), Roberts. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Smith.

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).

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