Steve Bruce celebrated his first anniversary as Birmingham City's manager yesterday. It was probably a quiet affair. Lunch at home, maybe a little Christmas shopping. But definitely no cards. There had been enough of those the day before, and on many previous Saturdays, as his, how shall we say, competitive side registered four more cautions and another sending off.
Bruce was forthright in his views afterwards in blaming the referee, Rob Styles, but even the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, as measured as ever in his comments despite his own team receiving four cautions and conceding a very dubious penalty, found time to criticise him. "The game got out of hand in the second half," he said.
Out-of-hand? There was more pushing and shoving than at the scramble for the last turkey at Christmas. Which is probably how Styles, whose display can best be described as interesting, felt as he was escorted from the pitch after the match. His performance really did deserve the bird.
One mass confrontation, after the justifiable sending off of Birmingham's lumbering striker Geoff Horsfield, involved 18 outfield players and spilled into the Charlton dug-out. Even the usually animated Bruce could only watch sheepishly as Charlton's assistant manager, Mervyn Day, tried to extract a dozen bodies from his bench.
What about the football? Oh yes, some did break out with Claus Jensen, in particular, trying to remember why they were all there. His goal was brilliantly executed, playing a neat one-two with Scott Parker on the edge of the area after Nico Vaesen's loose throw-out was intercepted by Paul Konchesky, Jensen took the return and calmly rounded the goalkeeper to score.
But how Charlton need a striker. Kevin Lisbie is a good player, but he cannot score. Their top scorer Jason Euell, sorely missed on Saturday, now operates from midfield.
The sending-off inspired the home side and Bruce went for broke, putting on two wide men. The ploy worked; Jensen bumped into Aliou Cissé, who fell easily, Styles pointed to the spot and Paul Devlin, one of the substitutes, scored.
At half-time on Saturday Birmingham paraded their new signing, the Senegalese full-back Ferdinand Coly who was described as a "big, strong lad" by his new manager. Sounds like he'll fit in just fine.
Goals: Jensen (37) 0-1; Devlin pen (67) 1-1.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Vaesen 5; Tébily 5, Vickers 4, Cunningham 4, Kenna 3 (Lazaridis 4, 59); Cissé 4, Savage 4, Kirovski 6, Damien Johnson 3 (Devlin 6, 59); Horsfield 3, Morrison 5. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Hughes, Woodhouse.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely 6; Young 4, Powell 5, Fish 4, Rowett 5; Kishishev 5 (Bart-Williams 5, 75), Parker 7, Jensen 6, Konchesky 7; Bartlett 4 (Johannson 4, 69), Lisbie 4. Substitutes not used: Rachubka (gk), Blomqvist, Fortune.
Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville, Hants) 3.
Bookings: Birmingham: Morrison, Cissé, Tébily, Savage. Charlton: Parker, Young, Rowett, Konchesky. Sent off: Birmingham: Horsfield.
Man of the match: Konchesky.
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