Burnley 1 Birmingham City 2: Bendtner's guile brings best out of Birmingham

David Instone
Monday 27 November 2006 01:00
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Manager under pressure to possible Manager of the Month, Steve Bruce must be sensing an immediate return to the Premiership.

His Birmingham City side appear increasingly capable of seizing control of a promotion race headed so far by clubs of considerably lesser means and talents.

It is not just that this fifth successive away victory established parity in the points column with Cardiff city and Preston North End at the top of the table. It is the apparent capacity for improvement that will alert the rest of the Championship's leading bracket.

Birmingham's radical rebuilding programme may not be based on the firmest of foundations - Fabrice Muamba, Sebastian Larsson and Nicklas Bendtner are on loan from Arsenal after all - but the goalscoring potential at Bruce's disposal is rich and becoming richer.

On the day when Cameron Jerome was ruled out by illness, up popped D J Campbell with the dramatic late winner as reassurance of the depth of City's strike force.

Burnley, striving to show they are capable of lasting the course in the top six, drew first blood through Chris McCann.

The tide soon turned, though, and fortunate as Bendtner's equaliser was - following a Michael Duff clearance that crashed against his team-mate Jon Harley and rebounded unkindly into the six-yard area - the force was with the visitors for long spells.

Bruce believes there is not an 18-year-old in England as good as Bendtner, while his Burnley counterpart Steve Cotterill called the Dane the best centre-forward outside the Premiership. His pace, allied here to that of Gary McSheffrey, was accompanied by an awareness and end product that exposed the shortcomings of a Burnley side now beaten three times in a row.

Only eight minutes from time, it was Bendtner on the right of the penalty area who superbly drove in the centre that Campbell, introduced as substitute barely 20 seconds earlier, turned in with his first touch.

Goals: McCann (4) 1-0 ; Bendtner (15) 1-1; Campbell (83) 1-2.

Burnley (4-4-2): Jensen; Foster, Thomas, Duff, Harley; Jones, O'Connor, Hyde, McCann (Mahon, 86); Gray, Noel-Williams (Lafferty, 75). Substitutes not used: Coyne (gk), McGreal, Elliott.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi, Martin Taylor, Sadler; Larsson (Campbell, 82), Muamba (Nafti, 75), Clemence, Danns; Bendtner, McSheffrey (Upson, 89). Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Kilkenny.

Referee: K Wright (Cambridgeshire).

Booked: Burnley Duff; Birmingham Bendtner, Nafti.

Man of the match: Bendtner.

Attendance: 12,889.

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