Birmingham City 0 Coventry City 1
Clinton Morrison may have been the inevitable goal-scorer but it was Keiren Westwood who won this match for Coventry.
On a night when Birmingham City caused their own frustration, visiting goalkeeper Westwood exacerbated the situation for Alex McLeish’s team.
For a striker, Morrison may not be the most prolific but he’s a master in front of goal when it comes to West Midlands derbies.
Having initially received a warm welcome from home supporters, due to his two much-celebrated strikes in Birmingham derbies gone by, he attracted a chorus of boos when removed with ten minutes remaining having found himself in the right place at the right time for Coventry’s deserved 53rd-minute winner.
However, for the final half an hour, the home side bombarded their visitors’ penalty area only to be thwarted by a string of stunning saves from Republic of Ireland hopeful Westwood.
This failure to see off one neighbour prevented Birmingham gaining ground on another as McLeish’s team remain four points adrift of Wolverhampton Wanderers at the top of the Championship following this successive 1-0 defeat.
Birmingham manager McLeish made three changes to the side that slipped to defeat on that wintery night in west London last Tuesday.
McLeish’s newest recruit, Nicky Hunt, who had arrived on a one-month emergency loan deal from Bolton Wanderers hours earlier, started at right back. Elsewhere, fit-again Radhi Jaidi was reintroduced in defence while Seb Larsson also made a welcomed return.
While this fixture may not have the same fiery passion that comes with other West Midlands derbies, the opening stages of this encounter had all the hallmarks of a competitive battle between two near-neighbours following a frantic start on a wet surface.
Stoke’s Rory Delap may be the bane of Premier League defences with his monstrous throw-ins but the Championship and Coventry have their own catapult, albeit a less-threatening version. The visitors attempted to unsettle their hosts’ defence early on with the throw-ins from their Icelandic international and former handball player Aron Gunnarsson.
Kevin Phillips, ever the poacher, for once found an effort that didn’t fall kindly for him in the 13th minute. James McFadden flicked on Larsson’s corner from the right and, as Phillips lurked menacingly yards from goal, the evergreen striker could only watch as the ball bounced awkwardly off his chest before being cleared to safety by Erdington-raised Isaac Osbourne.
Both sides were operating an identical formation, on face value it may have been 4-4-2 but Michael Mifsud and Cameron Jerome were playing as additional strikers. However, it was the away side’s system that was proving to be the more effective as Blues were being forced to defend gallantly to keep out the swarm of Sky Blues forwards.
Guillaume Beuzelin fired over after Lee Carsley had uncharacteristically given possession away to Mifsud then Morrison saw a shot from eight yards cannon off the bar following Jay Tabb’s touch-back.
Morrison was proving to be a handful for Liam Ridgewell and a harsher referee would have pointed to the spot when the centre back appeared to wrestle his opponent just inside the area.
Birmingham came out of the break five minutes early but the signs were not good for McLeish’s men as Coventry showed no signs of slowing down in the second half.
Chris Coleman’s side finally got their reward in the 53rd minute. Daniel Fox’s corner was flicked goalwards by Beuzelin and Morrison was in the right place to nod home.
Westwood continued to prove his worth as one of the Championship’s finest goalkeepers four minutes later with a wonder save to keep out a scrappy Ridgewell header before Phillips’ follow-up shot struck the post.
Birmingham were increasingly becoming a picture of frustration with rushed, untidy football.
Westwood was hell bent on walking away with the man-of-the-match award and he did exactly that by brilliantly denying Jaidi and Franck Queudrue from close range.
Queudrue’s effort may have crossed the line but, nevertheless, Birmingham had plenty of chances to win this.
Scorer: Morrison (53).
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor, Hunt, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Queudrue, Larsson, Carsley, Augstien (Quashie, 60), Jerome (Quincy, 71), McFadden, Phillips (Bent 65). Substitutes: Doyle, Martin Taylor.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Westwood, Osbourne, Ward, Dann, Fox, Mifsud, Gunnarsson, Beuzelin, Tabb (Hall, 89), Morrison (Eastwood, 81), Best (Simpson, 86). Substitutes: Marshall, Doyle.
Referee: Anthony Bates (Staffordshire)
Bookings: Coventry – Dann (foul), Tabb (foul)