<i>Hyder Jawad on the contest within Saturday's derby: a sub-plot also ending in a draw...</i>

The mini-contest within the match was as enthralling in actuality as it was in prospect. Which could be worse: the defending of Birmingham City or the finishing of West Bromwich Albion?

We held our breath and watched, in sheer incredulity, the nightmare unfold. In a masterful display of ineptitude, the aspirants from both teams did their best to fail - and succeed they did.

Diomansy Kamara, far too quick for his own good, was Albion's court jester with a succession of missed chances.

Birmingham did not have one man to match him, they had two. Martin Taylor and Martin Latka, both far too slow for their own good, were so wretched at centre-back that they had a good case to be handed, jointly, the Albion player-of-the-season award.

It was in keeping with the nature of an exciting if error-ridden match that this sub-plot ended in a draw - just like the whole thing.

The jeers at the final whistle suggested that the Birmingham supporters were unhappy yet there should have been cheering at best or expressions of relief at worst.

Albion could easily have won this 5-1. The 1-1 score-line helped nobody - well, nobody except Portsmouth, who defeated Manchester City 2-1 and, at long last, look as if they might actually fancy another season in the Premiership.

Little wonder that Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, was more disillusioned than Steve Bruce, his friend and Birmingham counterpart, for this was an execution in all but name.

"We did not miss chances," Robson said. "We missed sitters. Absolute sitters." It was no exaggeration.

Bruce delivered less with his mouth and more with his body language. It is hard to see how he, even with his venerable hair and enlarging torso, could have done worse than Taylor and Latka.

It was clear, however, on this evidence at least, that only one of these teams looks like one geared for the Premier-ship - and it is not Birmingham.

Bruce has endured the worst six months of his managerial career and only partly because of the injuries that have decimated his squad. There is also the likelihood that team spirit, so important to the team since they moved into the Premier-ship, is no longer what it should be.

You could see it in the performance on Saturday. Confidence was as evident as free £50 notes.

Tomasz Kuszczak, the Albion goalkeeper, enjoyed - if that is the right word - the easiest afternoon of all the players.

Man for man, Birmingham are stronger than Albion but they seem to lack Albion's team spirit and sense of purpose. Perhaps Bruce, fine man that he is, should adopt Robson's policy of taking the team on a male-bonding holiday every February.

In spite of the weather (it was cold and windy), the stadium (how often is there a good match at St Andrew's?), and the nervousness (we needed a psychiatrist rather than a referee), this was the best Premiership encounter I have seen this season. It was so good that I bemoaned the final whistle.

Birmingham did, too, but for different reasons. Albion were so dominant by the end that a winning goal seemed inevitable and Birmingham looked as comfortable here as Liverpool did in the first half of the Champions' League final last season.

If Birmingham survive they will look to this point and suggest that their fans should have been pleased with the result.

If Albion are relegated they will look to the two points dropped and accept that dominating matches and drawing them is as frustrating as performing indifferently and losing.

We are no closer to knowing which of these two great clubs will be playing in the Coca-Cola Championship next season. One cannot rule out the possibility that both will go down. If you defend as badly as Birmingham did or finish as badly as Albion did, consequences in some form are inevitable.