Carling Cup Third round - Blackburn 3 Birmingham City 0

A sickening first-half head injury to reserve goalkeeper Richard Kingson made defeat even more painful as an under-strength Birmingham City crashed out of the Carling Cup last night.

Steve Bruce's reserve team were outplayed from start to finish as the Blues boss, who will bring his first team back here for a key Premier League game on Sunday week, made it quite clear where his priorities lie.

But by far the low point of the night was the collision late in the first half when Kingson waited on his line for an over-hit Tugay free kick and was trapped between Blackburn Rovers' big defender Chris Samba and the post.

It was made to seem even worse when he collapsed on the pitch following treatment and, after being stretchered off, he was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, suffering from what appeared to be concussion.

Kingson's horrible injury totally took the gloss off what little pleasure could be derived from such an utterly meaningless 90 minutes.

The fans showed what they think of the liberties now taken with this competition, showing up on an absurdly cold night for this time of year in their hundreds rather than thousands. And the reason for their reluctance to part with brass was made clear when the two team sheets were handed in.

Rovers manager Mark Hughes made five changes from the side who suffered their second defeat in successive games at home to Portsmouth on Sunday, leaving out Robbie Savage altogether, although leaving one old boy for Blues to face in David Dunn.

Bruce had been even busier with his blue pencil, stripping out his entire starting XI from Saturday's trip to Anfield. Poor Rafael Schmitz was the one outfield player in his squad not to start either game.

Rovers were quickly into their stride and threatening to run amok.

It needed the presence of returning skipper Damien Johnson on the line to keep out Chris Samba's header, then took a brilliant reaction save by Kingson from Jason Roberts after Matt Derbyshire's right-wing cross had somehow got through.

Then, from Derbyshire's run, Mat Sadler had to head clear, before Derbyshire fluffed from close range and it took another save at full stretch from Kingson to deny Dunn.

Mikael Forssell did briefly enjoy a sniff for Blues when it took a fine finger-tip save by Colin Doyle low to his left to deny him. But it was a bolt from the blue and Rovers were soon back on the attack as Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion old boy Jason Roberts ended a typically powerful run by shooting just over.

Then came that sickening moment when Kingson bravely denied Samba from what seemed a fairly innocuous free kick.

Play was stopped for fully six minutes, during which time he initially got to his feet only to collapse in a sickening heap, at which point the paramedics and stretcher-bearers were called.

When play restarted, bizarrely, only four minutes of injury time were decreed by referee Mike Riley, during which time Dunn went even closer, shaving the newly-arrived Colin Doyle's right post.

It looked as if Rovers' frustrations in front of goal might get the better of them when Roberts injured himself in wasting a golden opening.

Having turned the lumbering Radhi Jaidi with frightening ease before racing clear, Roberts then attempted to guide home a curling right-foot shot from the edge of the area, his leg went from under him, the shot skewed wide and he was forced to be helped off.

Another chance went begging as Doyle spilled Samba's shot but then David Bentley finally broke the deadlock with a stunning 20-yarder and Rovers finally made their superiority count.

Doyle saved another Bentley shot at his near post before denying Dunn with his legs after a flick-on from home substitute Roque Santa Cruz. And finally it was 2-0 when Schmitz was harshly penalised after Derbyshire had ran straight into him in the box, won a penalty and got up to convert it himself. And, in injury time, the home side made it three, Santa Cruz claiming his first for the club from close range.

Scorers: Bentley (65), Derbyshire pen (82), Santa Cruz (91)
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-3-2-1): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Oooijer, Olsson (Warnock 75); Mokoena, Tugay, Bentley; Derbyshire (Rigters 82), Dunn; Roberts (Santa Cruz 55). Subs: Brown (gk), Khizanishvili
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Kingson (Doyle 40); Parnaby, Jaidi (Schmitz 56), Taylor, Sadler; De Ridder (Palacios 80), Danns, Johnson, Vine; Forssell, O'Connor. Subs: Pearce, Howland
Referee: Mike Riley (Leeds)
Bookings: Blues - Jaidi (foul)
Attendance: 9,205
Blues man of the match: Richard Kingson - two fine saves in the 40 minutes he did play.

Birmingham City found themselves the unwitting victims of a mishap within the corridors of footballing power last night after they were prevented from having 15-year-old Jordon Mutch on their bench for last night's Carling Cup tie at Ewood Park.

Blues boss Steve Bruce had picked both Mutch and fellow Academy player Krystian Pearce in his 16. But, barely two hours before kick-off, the club were informed that, due to tighter rules brought in this season relating to 'child protection', Blues were not allowed to play Mutch, who does not turn 16 until December.

The club made it plain that it was not them but the Premier League who were left with egg on their faces over this bizarre interpretation from on high of how best to further a young player's development.

A club statement said: "We were given the 'ok' in writing by the Premier League for Jordon Mutch to play. However, despite Premier League rule E 21 allowing the player to play at 15 years of age, it was brought to the club's attention that a new FA rule is in place as of this season whereby a player must be 16 to play in Open Age football (in accordance with child protection issues).

"Therefore as FA rules always supersede League rules, we were informed that Jordon Mutch was unfortunately unable to play in our Carling Cup fixture at Blackburn.

"The Premier League have subsequently contacted the club to apologise for this and for the incorrect information provided by them."