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Premier League

  • May 1, 2011
  • • 7:00 AM
  • • St. Andrew's Stadium, Birmingham
  • Referee: K. Friend
  • • Attendance: 26072

Birmingham City 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers: McCarthy’s side stays in bottom three while 10-man hosts move four points clear of drop zone

Birmingham City 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers: McCarthy’s side stays in bottom three while 10-man hosts move four points clear of drop zone

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Steven Fletcher's penalty and Sebastian Larsson's anticipation leave Midlands rivals to share spoils of match that will not live long in the memory

Ten-man Birmingham City held on to draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in a dour Midlands derby that helped neither side's hopes of Premier League survival.

In a match devoid of the quality expected of the top flight, errors from Ben Foster and Michael Mancienne led to goals from Steven Fletcher and Sebastian Larsson. The result left Wolves in 19th place and one point away from safety, while the Blues continued to hover four points above 18th placed Wigan Athletic.

For the hosts, manager Alex McLeish made two changes to the side that was thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool last weekend. Hot shot Kevin Phillips and Scottish defensive midfielder Barry Ferguson were drafted in at the expense of Alexander Hleb and Keith Fahey, while goalkeeper Foster recovered from the knock that saw him removed in the first half at Anfield.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy decided to shake up the defense that leaked three goals to Stoke City in mid-week. Scotland international center-back Christophe Berra and winger Michael Kightly were replaced by left-back George Elokobi and right-back Kevin Foley.

In an unsurprisingly tense atmosphere at St Andrew's it was goalkeeper Foster who cracked first in the fifth minute when his poorly struck clearance sailed along the turf to the grateful Matt Jarvis. The England international then played in Stephen Ward who was felled on the left-hand side of the penalty area by Foster.

Referee Kevin Friend had no choice but to point to the spot, though he declined to dismiss Foster to the chagrin of Wolves pack that hounded him. Injury doubt Fletcher stepped up to the mark two minutes later and coolly dispatched his seventh league goal of the campaign to the bottom left of the net.

The match official became the center of attention again on 15 minutes when Craig Gardner was scythed down by Richard Stearman on the edge of the penalty area. Friend correctly decided the foul occurred centimeters outside the area despite the cries from the home crowd who were then raised to their feet as Larsson crashed the subsequent free-kick onto goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey's crossbar.

The Swede then bailed out Birmingham's sluggish defense in the 25th minute after Fletcher's ingenious flick played Ward in on Foster's goal. With Jiranek outstripped for pace, Larsson diligently arrowed in and slid the ball away to safety.

Larsson's tireless energy was fully rewarded two minutes later, when in the second home match in a row, he took advantage of a defensive mistake to find the back of the net. This time an aimless punt up the pitch from Foster was horribly misjudged by makeshift center-back Mancienne and the on-loan Chelsea youngster's header fell straight into the path of Larsson who finished through the helpless Hennessey's legs.

Birmingham now had parity in terms of the scoreline but went down to 10-men in the 29th minute when Gardner was shown his second yellow card for a dive not out of place in a Clasico. Referee Friend simply had no choice but to issue a red after Gardner tumbled under a non-existent challenge from Craddock.

Despite being a man down the match went to loggerheads as both sides struggled to get their foot on the ball. The last chance of the half came in the 43rd minute when Foley skewed badly wide from seven yards after he was played in by Ward's inviting knock back.

Foster again had his heart in his mouth at the start of the second period when a Fletcher dummy played in substitute Adam Hammill in the 49th minute but the shot stopper's tackle was timed to perfection.

The game continued with the ball spending more time in the air than on the floor as Wolves failed to take advantage of the numerical superiority. In a poor advert for the Premier League, neither side looked valid entrants into the highest level of English football.

Indeed, the next horribly wasted opportunity came from a Jarvis tackle on the ponderous Lee Bowyer on the edge of his own box. The winger then showed none of the class that saw him capped recently and blasted miles over and was instantly substituted.

Wolves' best chance of the half fell to the man least likely to convert it when skipper Karl Henry picked up on a loose clearance 20-yards from goal in the 85th minute. The midfield hard man could only skew into Hammill's path and the subsequent scramble led to a handball from the replacement.

The final whistle brought an end to an unsightly match that saw Wolves edge ever closer to the trap door to the Championship.

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