Xmas Blues for Boro
By Graeme Bailey. Last Updated: 26/12/04 5:26pm
Birmingham's brilliant run of form continued as they eased to a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough - their fourth successive Premiership win.
It has been over a quarter of a century since Boro have won at St Andrews and they seldom looked like overcoming that miserable run.
After Boro had a goal controversially ruled out in the opening minutes, Birmingham took control and sealed the win before half time with goals from Clinton Morrison and Emile Heskey.
The game started at a surprisingly frantic pace and Boro could have easily been ahead within four minutes as they had a goal disallowed.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink broke on the left and cut back past Olivier Tebily before firing a vicious effort at goal which deflected off Stan Lazaridis and past Maik Taylor - but the assistant referee flagged as Mark Viduka had strayed into an offside position, although Boro will argue that he was not interfering with play.
The scare seemed to spark Birmingham into action and Morrison showed his intent with a powerful drive but luckily for Boro, Franck Queudrue was there to head clear
Boro were not without their own chances and Stewart Downing looked to get into the game and aimed a 30-yard drive straight at Taylor.
Then from a nothing clearance, Birmingham took the lead. Taylor cleared a routine ball deep into Boro's half, Heskey beat Gareth Southgate to flick the ball into the area and Morrison - who evaded the attentions of Colin Cooper - swivelled on the edge of the six-yard box and hammered the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
From the goal Birmingham took control of the game, although they created little in terms of clear scoring chances - but Boro by the same token were even more toothless.
Boro's chances of getting level were hampered severely when Viduka was stretchered off with a torn hamstring.
Despite their distinct lack of ideas, Boro did create a golden opportunity to level just before the break when Ray Parlour took the ball down on the right and found Hasselbaink in the area, who fired a first time shot at goal - but it flew just inches past the post.
Birmingham still had time to push for another and indeed it came. Darren Carter almost scored as Damian Johnson's cross found him, but his shot deflected just wide.
From the corner Boro were asleep and allowed Robbie Savage to collect a short ball and he crossed for Heskey to head home from six yards, with neither defenders or goalkeeper knowing a great deal about what had just happened.
Morrison was again at the hub of everything good and he almost created an immediate goal in the second period as he crossed deep into the area and only a crucial intervention from Queudrue stopped a goal.
Then Birmingham suffered a blow as arguably their two biggest names - Heskey and David Dunn - were both forced off within minutes off each other.
Steve Bruce was forced to tinker with his line-up with Julian Gray and Jamie Clapham introduced.
Understandably Birmingham found it hard to get going after losing two key players and Boro pushed on looking for a way back into the game.
Steve McClaren threw on an extra striker in the shape of Szilard Nemeth, but still they could not grind out a clear-cut chance and Birmingham soon found their feet again.
Savage was handed a great chance to increase the home side's lead with a free kick on the edge of the area and he made Schwarzer work hard as the Aussie was forced to tip the ball over the bar.
Boro had too few opportunities, one of which came for substitute Joseph-Desire Job but he could only find Taylor from Downing's cross - who had one of his quieter afternoons.
Mario Melchiot was then introduced as Birmingham looked to get numbers behind the ball and play out for a well deserved win and that is just what they did.
Boro did create some late chances with Hasselbaink and Downing both firing wide - but it was never going to be for the visitors.
Birmingham fully deserved their win for a whole-hearted display which lifts them to 12th and almost certainly dispels any relegation fears they once had.
Click here for Birmingham v Middlesbrough player ratings
|Birmingham City||Team Name||Middlesbrough|
|7||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||3|
|1||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||3|
|17||Total Fouls Conceded||9|
Barclays Premier League
Sun 26th Dec
Southampton0 - 0Charlton
C Palace0 - 1Portsmouth
Arsenal2 - 0Fulham
Chelsea1 - 0A Villa
Everton2 - 1Man City
Norwich0 - 2Tottenham
Blackburn2 - 2Newcastle
Man Utd2 - 0Bolton
Birmingham2 - 0M'boro
West Brom0 - 5Liverpool
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Bromwich Albion||6||8|
|13||West Ham United||6||7|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||6||4|