Birmingham City 1 West Ham United 2
The alarm bells are ringing at St Andrew's as Birmingham slipped to their sixth home defeat in seven Premiership fixtures.
Despite a late flurry that saw Emile Heskey have a goal ruled out for handball and Nico Vaesen in the opposition penalty area, Steve Bruce?s men committed defensive suicide to leave themselves firmly entrenched in the relegation zone.
Heskey handed them an ideal start when he scored after 12 minutes but Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood replied for West Ham to leave the stench of relegation permeating St Andrew?s.
And if another home defeat, against an average West Ham side, wasn?t bad enough, then Bruce suffered more blows with Mario Melchiot, Muzzy Izzet and Martin Taylor all limping off injured by half time.
Birmingham huffed and puffed in the final 20 minutes but the unavoidable fact is that they are incapable of sustaining a performance for 90 minutes.
There were patches of quality but they were few and far between and some of Birmingham?s players will have to take a long, hard look at themselves. The midfield area was disappointing throughout and defensive lapses cost them dear.
West Ham had only previously won away once and the fillip of an early Heskey goal should have been the launch pad for a home victory, but the lack of self-belief is paralysing Blues performances.
With three more players returning to the treatment table, the problems are mounting for Bruce ahead of Saturday?s clash with Fulham, but he is insistent this is no time for shrinking violets.
?We had to make three substitutions in the first half, but i am not looking for excuses,? said Bruce. ?We defended poorly for their goals and didn?t show enough resilience.
?One point from seven home games is horrific and I?ve never known anything like it.
?It was a tale of two penalty areas as we conceded poor goals and created good opportunities in the second half but didn?t take them. We didn?t deserve to lose, but I am glad that our next game is at home because we have got to turn it round.
?The team need to show guts and character and realise that we have a cup final coming up on Saturday and be ready for it.?
Melchiot limped off with a thigh injury to leave Bruce cursing his luck inside the first ten minutes. However, Birmingham shook off that early blow and took the lead.
David Dunn was the architect behind Heskey?s fourth goal of the campaign as he wrestled the ball away from Yossi Benayoun on the halfway line.
He advanced toward the penalty area before delivering a trademark slide-rule pass that deceived Anton Ferdinand and left Heskey bearing down on Roy Carroll. The #6 million striker kept his composure to round Carroll and slot into an empty net.
The outpouring of relief was tangible as it was the first time Birmingham had opened the scoring at home in a Premiership fixture since August 20.
However, if Bruce thought that this would be a trouble free evening he was sadly mistaken.
Nico Vaesen produced a stunning one-handed save to deny Marlon Harewood but, even while Birmingham supporters were applauding, Bruce was left distraught by the sight of Muzzy Izzet lying prostrate on the floor.
The Turkey international had charged down a clearance in the build up to Harewood?s opportunity and looked a disconsolate figure as he was led from the field of play with a hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him for several weeks.
The evening was only going to get worse. Zamora flicked a Harewood throw-in over Taylor?s head inside the area and skilfully eluded a Damien Johnson lunge to leave him free at an acute angle inside the six-yard area.
However, he managed to toe-poke the ball through Vaesen?s legs at the near post to hand the visitors a deserved equaliser.
West Ham took the lead in first half injury time. Upson conceded possession unnecessarily ten yards outside the penalty area and Matthew Etherington raced to the byline and whipped in a low cross that hit Benayoun and rebounded to the unmarked Harewood, who gleefully rammed the ball past a helpless Vaesen.
Birmingham left the field to jeers and Bruce was dealt another blow during the interval when Taylor was forced out of action with an twisted ankle.
Proceedings became increasingly scrappy after the break and Blues were grateful for the effervescent Dunn. His creativity shone like a beacon amongst the mediocre fare and he came within inches of restoring parity.
Stan Lazaridis? cross reached him at the far post, he controlled the ball instantly and unleashed a shot that beat Carroll but, unfortunately for Birmingham, the far post as well.
Upson wasted a glorious opportunity ten minutes from time when his shot from seven yards out sailed over the crossbar and Heskey was denied by Carroll.
Once again, it was a tale of nearly and maybe for Blues who now face the prospect of a season long relegation battle. With three more players back in the treatment room, it will not be easy.