Wolves fail to make Blues pay
Gardner sent off after Larsson cancelled out Fletcher penalty
Last Updated: 01/05/11 2:27pm
Craig Gardner is sent off by referee Kevin Friend after picking up a second yellow card for diving
Birmingham City edged a step closer to Premier League safety after securing a 1-1 draw at home to relegation rivals Wolves despite playing for over an hour with 10 men.
The Carling Cup winners had Craig Gardner sent off just before the half-hour mark at St Andrews moments after Sebastian Larsson had cancelled out Steven Fletcher's penalty.
But Wolves, who started the day second bottom of the table, were unable to make their numerical advantage count to leave Mick McCarthy's side facing an uphill battle to claim survival.
Fletcher provided Wolves with a seventh minute lead after confidently scoring from the penalty spot after Ben Foster had brought down Stephen Ward, with the visiting players demanding a red card for the Birmingham goalkeeper.
Gardner then collected his first booking after squaring up to Jamie O'Hara, who was also cautioned, before the Birmingham midfielder was clattered on the edge of the box by Richard Stearman.
Larsson curled the resulting free-kick against the crossbar, but the Swede made no mistake on 27 minutes as he rifled a shot past Wayne Hennessey after a woeful defensive header by Michael Mancienne.
However, just two minutes after drawing level, Birmingham were down to 10 men when Gardner was rightly shown a second yellow card by referee Kevin Friend for diving.
The second half lacked both the intensity and incident of the first as Birmingham saw out the contest to move four points clear of safety, with three games to play, while Wolves are a point adrift of 17th-placed Blackpool.
The visitors made a positive start and Kevin Foley had a shot blocked inside the box by Roger Johnson following a deep Jarvis cross.
After six minutes Wolves went ahead through Fletcher's penalty. Foster's poor clearance fell straight to Matt Jarvis, who played in Ward.
Foster came off his line but only succeeded in bringing down the Wolves player and referee Friend pointed to the spot. The Blues keeper was booked before being sent the wrong way by Fletcher for his ninth goal of the season.
Gardner was then brought down by O'Hara and the two were cautioned after squaring up to each other.
The tackles were flying in thick and fast and Gardner was on the receiving end of a crude challenge by Stearman on the edge of the Wolves area which did not receive a booking.
Larsson delivered the free-kick and it crashed against the crossbar with Wolves keeper Hennessey well beaten.
A mistake by Mancienne gifted Birmingham their equaliser after 27 minutes. The on-loan Chelsea player failed to make a clean header when trying to dealing with a long Foster clearance.
The ball dropped into the path of Larsson, who drilled his low shot past Hennessey.
But two minutes later Birmingham were reduced to 10 men when referee Friend adjudged that Gardner had dived when challenged by Jody Craddock and he was sent off for a second bookable offence.
No quarter given
McLeish responded to the Gardner dismissal by reorganising his side. He took off Kevin Phillips to leave Cameron Jerome as the lone striker and brought on winger Jean Beausejour to reinforce the midfield.
There was no quarter being given and Craddock was yellow-carded for hauling down Jerome in full flight.
Foley would have been disappointed not to hit the target after Ward teed up a chance following a dangerous centre from Jarvis.
McCarthy was forced into a half-time switch with the injured Stearman replaced by Adam Hammill.
Foster soon came racing out of his area to block an effort from Hammill near the touchline.
Wolves skipper Karl Henry became the first player to be booked in the second period for chopping down Lee Bowyer.
Foley brought down Beausejour just outside the Wolves area but Larsson could not keep his free-kick down.
A mistake by Bowyer let in Jarvis but he sliced his shot well wide in his last taste of the action before being replaced by Stephen Hunt.Foster then got his body behind a low drive from O'Hara and, with Wolves continuing to search for the winner, Hammill had a shot blocked by Blues skipper Stephen Carr, but there was no way through.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|1||Shots on Target||2|
|6||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||17||31|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|15||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|