Burnley 1 Birmingham City 1
Cameron Jerome came off the bench to rescue a point for Birmingham City as they maintained their unbeaten away record – but only just.
Blues have built a reputation as being a resilient and spirited side, and they had to call on all their powers of recovery to come away from Turf Moor with something to show for their efforts.
Alex McLeish’s side are yet to produce the Champagne football that many would have expected from such a talented squad of players but what they have got is the uncanny knack of pulling something out of the fire when they haven’t been at their best.
This clash in rain-lacerated Lancashire was a classic example. For most of the game Blues were second best to a gutsy but ordinary Burnley side, but somehow they grabbed a point in the 75th minute with their only effort on target in the entire afternoon.
One trait that sets Blues apart from the vast majority of their Championship rivals is the ability to be able to call upon such quality from the bench as James McFadden and Jerome. The game seemed to he slipping through Birmingham’s rain-soaked fingers until they broke from defending another Burnley corner and Jerome and McFadden combined swiftly before the Scotland international raced clear.
McFadden’s shot was partially blocked by Brian Jensen’s left leg and was trickling towards the empty net but Jerome swooped to tap home his third goal of the season, and he is unlikely to score a more welcome one.
This was a bad day at the races for Blues in terms of performance, with far too many of McLeish’s side operating below par. Martin Taylor’s addition at the heart of the defence in place of the injured Radhi Jaidi was the only change to the side that controlled the game so impressively against Queens Park Rangers before the international break, but his performance summed up Blues. He was hesitant, gave the ball away far too cheaply and made error after error as Burnley were handed the impetus.
Taylor wasn’t alone. Kevin Phillips was almost anonymous and Quincy struggled to have any impact until he was again switched to the right flank. Even the usually reliable Lee Carsley seemed to be struggling to get anywhere near his usual high standards.
With so many players out of sorts, it was an afternoon for rolling up sleeves, pulling up socks and digging in, and what Blues lacked in guile they made up for in guts.
It was a good job too because Owen Coyle, who had played for McLeish at Motherwell in the late 1990s and said he had learned more in that time from the Blues boss than any other manager, had set his side up to play a high tempo, direct and aggressive style which Blues struggled to match.
Burnley produced back to basics Championship football and it worked. There were no frills to the Clarets, no finesse; they just got amongst Blues, were first to the ball, won the tackles and looked to pump a succession of crosses into the box.
They were particularly effective from the right and Stuart Parnaby was almost under constant siege at the back post. Blues had survived a few scares before Chris McCann put the hosts in front from a Martin Paterson cross in the 25th minute and McCann should have doubled Burnley’s lead with another back post header four minutes later but he headed wide.
There were plenty more scares for Birmingham and it was fortunate that Burnley do not possess a great amount of quality.
With the hosts unable to kill off Blues, the visitors were always in the game and while the Clarets were unable to make the most of their chances, Blues only needed one to earn a draw..
That sort of quality could prove to be the difference at the end of the season but they cannot afford to have to keep digging themselves out of holes between now and May. Sooner or later, Blues are going to have to show more than just resilience.
Scorers: McCann (25) 1-0; Jerome (75) 1-1.
BURNLEY (4-1-3-2): Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Gudjonsson, McCann, Elliott, Paterson (Blake 65), Thompson (Eagles 70), Subs: Penny, Rodriguez, Van der Schaaf.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Maik Taylor, Parnaby, Martin Taylor, Ridgewell, Murphy (Queudrue 45), Larsson, Agustien (McFadden 58), Carsley, Quincy, O’Connor (Jerome 68), Phillips. Subs: Doyle, Nafti.
Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucestershire).
Bookings: Burnley - Thompson, Carlisle (fouls); Blues - McFadden (dissent).