JEROME RESCUES 10-MAN BLUES.. Boss McLeish Sings Side's Praises as Nafti Sees Red

Article excerpt

Byline: MAT KENDRICK

BIRMINGHAM 1

Jerome 46 mins

DONCASTER 0

ALEX McLeish praised Birmingham's power of 10 after Cameron Jerome's winner defeated determined Donny and made amends for Mehdi Nafti's stupid sending off.

Blues were reduced to 10 men following Nafti's nasty two-footed challenge on 26 minutes, but their number 10, Jerome, saved the day with a clinical 46th minute volley.

McLeish was delighted with the resilience of his unbeaten Championship title favourites after their 13th point from a possible 15 kept them joint top on points with free-scoring Wolves.

"It wasn't pretty but it was effective in the end," he said. "Hats off to the 10 men who went out there and dug deep, we scored a fantastic goal by a man who's looking confident at the moment so I'm grateful for the spirit of the players and I've got the belief in them.

"The only niggle from me is that we've got to be better than that but there's been great spirit and we have dug a couple of results out.

"I think there's the quality in the dressing room to get us a goal if we need one and it was a useful one just after half-time.

"We had to defend very deep in the second half but we defended well and it was a good solid back four display."

Nafti's moment of madness was all the more galling given that this was the Tunisian's return to first-team action at the expense of Kemi Agustien after overcoming a hamstring problem.

After a comedy of errors during which Martin Taylor and Lee Carsley both squandered possession in their own-half, Nasty took leave of his senses by clattering into James Coppinger.

Despite the boos from the Blues fans, the referee had no choice but to show him a straight red card, leaving McLeish's men with a numerical disadvantage for threequarters of the game.

But if the 18,165 St Andrew's crowd still felt the official's decision was harsh then he more than made up for it by letting Maik Taylor off the hook over a contentious penalty decision.

James Hayter had already made himself a hate-figure by appearing to dive over the outstretched leg of David Murphy after a pathetic penalty box pass by Carsley put the left back in trouble.

The referee was probably right not to take any action against either player during that 12th minute incident but he should have penalised Birmingham's goalkeeper for bringing down Lewis Guy just before the half-hour mark.

It looked to be a stonewall penalty and if the man in the middle thought otherwise then he should have made the Doncaster forward the fall-guy for diving and booked him instead. …