Luton Town 3 Birmingham City 2

By Ged Scott

The times they are appear to be a-changing at Birmingham City.

Karren Brady has been linked with London's Capital Radio, Matthew Upson is apparently wanted by Newcastle United, and Mikael Forssell is reportedly a man more in demand at Coventry City than at Birmingham City.

Then there's the manager Steve Bruce, himself. Exactly where does he sit this morning?

Judging by the ferocity of the fans' phone-ins and the war of words on the websites, not too comfortably.

Thanks to Blues' untimely run of four games without a win, his head is very much on the block - quite ironic really, given that this week is the fifth anniversary of the start of the tide of events which took him back to St Andrew's as manager in December 2001.

Trevor Francis was sacked by Blues five years ago yesterday, five days later Bruce's Crystal Palace won at Molineux to go top of Division One and, having long been earmarked as the chosen one to replace Trevor, that caught the eye of the Blues directors. And, one good inter-boardroom row later (not to mention a forest of newsprint and a month of gardening leave) they eventually prised Bruce out of Selhurst Park.

But now what goes around has come around and Bruce is the one feeling under pressure.

Having returned the loyalty towards him that he showed them when he turned down boyhood heroes Newcastle two summers ago, the Blues board nobly stuck by Bruce both in the immediate fall-out of that appalling 7-0 FA Cup home defeat by Liverpool back in March and again when Blues were finally relegated just over a month later.

But the storm clouds are gathering.

The money has been spent again and, not only are Blues not top where their fans believe by right they should be, it's actually worse than that. Two points out of a possible 12 has seen them slip eight adrift of Dave Jones' pace-setting Cardiff City and, more importantly, behind both West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

If they were to lose again to Bruce's old club Norwich City tomorrow night, Blues could even drop as low as ninth - the league position that was enough to trigger his old mate Bryan Robson's ejector seat at The Hawthorns just under a month ago.

Just like Robson at Albion before him, such talk seems harsh. Blues are sixth in the league. And, thankfully for Bruce, his immediate future depends largely on the feelings of the board, not the fans, fired up into a frenzy by the constant barrage of radio phone-ins.

But if this was the afternoon that proved the catalyst to Blues' next managerial change - and it is true that Bruce's job now rides on his side getting three points against Norwich - that really does not take into account Saturday's cruel turn of events.

For almost half an hour, Blues looked lively and in control.

When DJ Campbell put Blues ahead, in prime poaching position just outside the six-yard box to latch on to Gary McSheffrey's dinked cross, it was no more than the visitors deserved.

They had other chances too, mostly involving McSheffrey, and Luton looked out of it. But referee Jon Moss's inexplicable decision to award a penalty after Lewis Emmanuel had gone to ground between Stephen Kelly and Radhi Jaidi altered the whole contest.

Rowan Vine stuck the spot-kick low to Maik Taylor's left. And, just less than two minutes later, he got another.

Jaidi went up for a clearing header to Emmanuel's corner, he didn't get it and, after extricating the ball from where it appeared stuck under Leon Barnett's foot, Vine suddenly latched on to it to swivel and find the net.

Admittedly, Blues had the heart to come back and level midway through the second half when Neil Danns' volley flew in off the far post. And, at that stage, they looked the likelier side to win a game.

But Mike Newell's Hatters are not renowned solely for having to perform at the worst ground in the league. They can also play some very nice football. And they won all three points with one of the best moves of the game, Vine breaking up field to feed Sol Davis, whose cross was knocked back by Carlos Edwards to be turned in from eight yards out by substitute Dave Bell.

Bruce knew all too well that there were other areas of weakness that had cost his side the game. But he knew most of all that it was the penalty that turned it.

Even his opposite number Newell admitted that it was "harsh", adding that: "If ours was a penalty then their one earlier on Cameron Jerome probably was as well."

There are consolations. Bruce could have both David Dunn (calf) and Nicklas Bendtner (knee) available tomorrow night. And, regardless of the latest transfer rumours surrounding him, Upson should be back training after his long absence with that Achilles tendon injury by the end of the week.

Saturday's defeat triggered a busy run of six league games in 22 days (not to mention the League Cup date with another of Bruce's old clubs Sheffield United), but it is a testing schedule.

After tomorrow night, three of the next four games are away (at Derby, Coventry and Plymouth) and the only other visitors to St Andrew's are rejuvenated West Brom.