Victory in vain for Birmingham

Birmingham 4 Blackburn 1

Birmingham fans turned on chairman David Gold and co-owner David Sullivan as their side’s relegation from the Barclays Premier League was confirmed despite substitute Cameron Jerome’s late double against Blackburn.

Chants of the “the board must go” were aimed towards the director’s box once it became clear there was going to be no last day of the season Houdini act for Alex McLeish’s side.

David Murphy’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Rovers midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen before substitute Jerome struck twice. Fabrice Muamba added a fourth in injury-time.

Birmingham have paid the price for a season of turmoil which was undermined by the protracted and ultimately failed takeover bid by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung in December.

That resulted in Steve Bruce quitting as manager, after he could get no assurances about his future, and heading for Wigan who he has kept in the top flight.

McLeish inherited a young and inexperienced squad and knew he faced an uphill task to keep Blues up despite winning 3-2 at Tottenham in his opening game.

City were unable to convert their good home form into victories with eight of the 12 matches at St Andrews under McLeish ending in draws while away they failed to win in five months after the triumph at White Hart Lane.

A lack of a killer touch in front of goal, a shortage of creativity in midfield and being unable to keep a clean sheet during 2008 contributed significantly to their downfall.

But fans have become disillusioned at what they perceive as a lack of investment in the squad by Sullivan and Gold.

Birmingham suffered a pre-match setback when striker James McFadden aggravated his knee problem and was replaced by Mauro Zarate who could have put them ahead after only three minutes.

The on-loan Argentinian played a one-two with Olivier Kapo and found himself with only Brad Friedel to beat but he sliced his shot across the face of goal when he should have at least hit the target.

McLeish’s side made a lively start but an error by midfielder Fabrice Muamba almost handed Rovers the lead a couple of minutes later.

His sideways pass was seized upon by Morten Gamst Pedersen who burst forward before releasing Roque Santa Cruz but his low drive was blocked by Maik Taylor.

Birmingham skipper Damien Johnson became the first player to be yellow carded in the 26th minute when he sliced down Roberts in full flight during a quick Rovers counter attack.

Kapo should have done better when he got on the end of a right-wing cross from Larsson and directed his header well wide.

But in the 31st minute David Murphy gave Birmingham hope with his first goal since his £1.5 million move from Hibernian in January.

Zarate took a quick free-kick and left-back Murphy was allowed to run forward to the edge of the box almost unopposed and his low shot looked to be covered by Friedel.

But he inexplicably allowed the ball to go underneath his body and into the corner of the net.

Kapo could have doubled City’s lead three minutes later when he raced on to a pass from Mikael Forssell but his low drive hit the left leg of Friedel who partially atoned for his blunder.

Larsson was yellow carded for protesting after referee Howard Webb had awarded a corner rather than a throw-in.

Stephen Kelly came to Birmingham’s rescue when he cleared off the line from Brett Emerton after the midfielder had skipped past Taylor who had coming racing of his line.

Blackburn started the second half on the offensive and Taylor did well to save at the feet of Roberts after good play by Stephen Warnock.

But after 49 minutes Pedersen brought Rovers back on level terms.

Johnson was dispossessed by Vogel and released Roberts who had two fierce drives blocked by Taylor but the ball broke across the face of goal to Pedersen who made no mistake.

Birmingham needed a positive response and Kapo showed good skill to create a yard of space for himself and flashed a fierce drive across the face of goal.

Blues substitute Jerome was guilty of a glaring miss from close range when he shot over with the goal at his mercy from a Murphy cross.

But the England Under-21 international made amends in the 73rd minute when he converted a centre from Larsson and then coolly slotted the ball past Friedel for his second.

Muamba headed in an injury-time cross from Medhi Nafti for the fourth but the it matter little as results elsewhere saw the Blues drop into the Coca-Cola Championship.

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