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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

QPR's Loss at Birmingham - Further Match Reports

Birmingham 2 QPR 1

See Earlier Reports and Managerial Comments at Birmingham 2 QPR 1

GUARDIAN -Birmingham totally in control after curse clears - Ian Winrow Wednesday December 27, 2006

As Birmingham celebrate a hundred years at their ground the news that the 100-year curse imposed on St Andrew's when they moved in has now been lifted will come as depressing news to Brimingham's promotion rivals. Steve Bruce's side moved eight points clear at the head of the Championship with this routine win.
Infuriated at being evicted to make way for the football club, disgruntled Gypsies apparently imposed the curse when City played their first game at St Andrew's on Boxing Day 1906 and it has convinced more than one of Bruce's predecessors to behave extraordinarily to try to improve the club's fortunes.
Ron Saunders placed crucifixes on each floodlight pylon and painted the soles of the players' boots red whereas Barry Fry opted for the more direct approach of urinating on each corner-flag. By contrast Bruce has so far allowed his players' performances to influence the club's future although, with Derby County and Preston North End, their nearest rivals, slipping to defeat yesterday, the Midlands club are getting plenty of assistance from elsewhere.
This was not the most fluent of wins but Cameron Jerome's 62nd-minute winner, the striker's first at home since his summer move from Cardiff City, ensured that Birmingham claimed an 11th win from their past 13 games. "It was edgy at times and we could have done with a third goal to calm the nerves," said their assistant manager, Eric Black.
"The determination showed by everyone got us through and it is great to have an eight-point cushion. But there are still a lot of games to be won and lost. We have to maintain this because there is a long way to go and we have to maintain a certain level of performance. There are certain things we have to keep an eye on - and the Gypsies' curse was one of them."
Having seen his struggling side miss out on a valuable point after looking impressive for half an hour after Lee Cook equalised Matthew Upson's 22nd-minute headed opener, the Rangers manager, John Gregory, believes there is no need for such caution at St Andrew's and that the club's board is benefiting from keeping its nerve when Bruce's side started the season slowly and there were growing calls for the manager's head.
"Birmingham have got the best bunch of players in this division," claimed the former Aston Villa manager. "And they should never have been in this league in the first place. The board at Birmingham have been first-class and they showed great composure at the start of the season when the club were in mid-table. They have been very astute to stand by Steve and behave in the way all managers would like their board to."
A couple of early misses from Nicklas Bendtner suggested this might not be City's day but, when Upson met Gary McSheffrey's flighted free-kick with an unstoppable header, a routine win appeared certain.
Rangers fought back, though, with Cook fashioning an excellent leveller after cutting in from the left wing and curling the ball beyond Maik Taylor. The home side had too much strength, however, and Jerome, replacing DJ Campbell, restored the advantage with his first touch, with McSheffrey once again the provider.
Man of the match Gary McSheffrey (Birmingham City)

INDEPENDENT - Birmingham City 2 Queen's Park Rangers 1: Bruce's men bury 'gipsy's curse' to cement lead By Phil Shaw Published: 27 December 2006

Those who are convinced that a gipsy's curse on St Andrew's blighted Birmingham City for 100 years are doubtless believers in the existence of Santa Claus. Whatever the truth, the Championship leaders launched the stadium's second century with an 11th win in 13 matches, while it was also Queen's Park Rangers' sixth defeat in seven.

Cameron Jerome's sixth goal of the season, two minutes after he came on as a substitute, sent Birmingham eight points clear. Steve Bruce's side had started intent on maintaining a record of scoring three or more in the previous five games, yet lost their way after Matthew Upson's first-half opener.
Lee Cook fired a stunning equaliser for Rangers, who performed with a doggedness that should help them steer clear of the relegation zone. But this Birmingham side is capable of winning even when below par, and Gary McSheffrey combined with Nicklas Bendtner to set up Jerome for the decisive thrust.
Bruce did not attend the post-match press briefing because of family commitments, sending his coach, Eric Black. "You can't expect strikers to be scoring three and four every time," the Scot said. "We're still a long way from where we want to be - there's lots of games to be won or lost."
John Gregory, back in the city where he and Bruce were rivals for a month five years ago, was asked whether Birmingham had enough to return to the Premiership. "More than enough," he replied. "They shouldn't be in this division in the first place. They have the best players and the best team in it."
He added: "The directors here have been fantastic. They remained composed through a very difficult period. They were ninth at one stage, but they didn't panic. They supported the manager in a way all managers would love a board to conduct themselves. They were astute, bided their time and allowed him to turn the season around."
Birmingham's early superiority produced a 22nd-minute lead. McSheffrey's curling free-kick from the left found Upson towering above the Rangers defence to power his second goal in four games, since the defender returned from a serious injury.
Rangers levelled after 31 minutes. Paul Furlong fed Cook on the left angle of the penalty area. The much-coveted midfielder went left but turned back on to his right foot, unleashing a diagonal drive that tore into the far corner of the net.
Birmingham wrapped up the points in the 62nd minute. Bendtner slipped a fine through-pass to McSheffrey, who could have scored himself but selflessly supplied Jerome for the former Cardiff player's first goal at St Andrew's.
Gregory was not alone in detecting a hint of offside. However, the flag stayed down, prompting sceptics to wonder whether a curse really had been lifted.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi , Upson (Larsson, 89), Sadler; Johnson, Nafti, Clemence, McSheffrey; Campbell (Jerome, 60; Muamba, 90), Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Danns.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Royce; Rehman, Stewart, Mancienne, Milanese; Smith, Bircham (Bailey, 59), Cook, Bignot; Blackstock (Jones, 81), Furlong. Substitutes not used: Cole (gk), Ward, Rowlands. INDEPENDENT

TELEGRAPH - Jerome provides party piece By Trevor Haylett

The party began with jugglers, fancy costumes and walkers on stilts but only when Cameron Jerome put away the winning goal just past the hour could Birmingham truly enjoy the celebration of 100 years at St Andrew's.
Results elsewhere meant their advantage at the top of the Championship lengthened to eight points and with the gypsy's curse on this ground – enforced, according to folklore, after a band of Romanies were evicted to make way for the ground – now officially removed who can stop Steve Bruce's side?
Probably only themselves. There were times yesterday when they seemed intent on taking the long road to three points but quality told in the end as their two outstanding talents, Gary McSheffrey and Nicklas Bendtner, combined to lay on a simple finish for Jerome to score in front of his own supporters for the first time.
John Gregory believes Birmingham have got "more than enough" to clinch promotion, and it was no surprise that the QPR manager highlighted McSheffrey's impact because he also sent over the swirling free-kick which enabled Matthew Upson to head home spectacularly in the 21st minute.
A second goal became necessary after Lee Cook scored and when Dexter Blackstock twice emerged in goalscoring positions at the start of the second half there was a sense the home team's big day could end with a whimper. But winning has become habitual – it's now 11 in 13 games – and St Andrews can surely reckon on another, grander, celebration sometime in May. Telegraph

See Also:
Paul Hoop/QPR Net Match Report - Report
Clive Whittingham/Rivals Match Report - Report

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