Birmingham City 1 Derby County 0

Last updated : 09 March 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Rowan Vine sent Birmingham City back to the top of the Championship table with his first goal since a £3million transfer window move from Luton Town.

The crucial win, which was achieved after Gary McSheffrey was sent off in the second half, handed the Blues a vital one-point advantage over Derby with a game in hand and now makes them firm favourites to gain promotion.

Vine's crucial 45th minute strike ensured Birmingham completed a worthy double over Derby.

Fortunately for Birmingham, the ground conditions were a vast improvement on their previous game with Cardiff.

McSheffrey red card did little to aide the Rams
They played with a refreshing confidence in a closely contested game which was only sealed by Vine's superb finishing.

It was the only difference between two teams who conspired to provide a game of top quality.

Derby, rated 175-1 to win promotion before the season started, gave Birmingham some anxious moments particularly after McSheffrey's departure for a two-footed tackle on Dean Leacock.

The likes of Leacock, Giles Barnes and David Jones all displayed their rich talent and were roared on by Derby's huge travelling support.

They were treated to a feast of good football which began in the opening five minutes that set the tone for this top of table clash bristling with urgency, pace and full of opportunities.

Barnes was the first to emerge as a potential goalscorer with a long-range effort which Colin Doyle failed to hold but scrambled to regain possession.

A more clear-cut opportunity came to McSheffrey when he easily beat the lumbering Darren Moore. But, instead of shooting, he attempted to round goalkeeper Stephen Bywater and his effort was deflected wide.

Bywater distinguished himself again in the 14th minute of a frantic game. A long clearance from Doyle was trapped on his instep by Nicklas Bendtner, who then raced clear only for the Derby keeper to defiantly block his goalbound shot.

Giles was the Derby engine room and it quickly proved to be a battle between him and another up and coming youngster Fabrice Muamba.

But the encounter turned out to be a battle to see who would be the first to buckle.

Both teams raided in depth and this resulted in a series of goalmouth incidents with Martin Taylor going close with one effort, while the powerful Steve Howard demonstrated his talent with a shot which whistled just wide in an entertaining first half.

The highlight, however, was reserved for the final minute before the break when Birmingham produced the opening goal of the game with a perfectly executed move.

Taylor swung as long ball from the left which found Vine on the edge of the area and, despite the close attention of Leacock, the former Luton striker turned and shot low to the right of Bywater.

It was a goal which gave Birmingham a massive physiological boost and at the same time deflated Derby.

As a result they had to chase the game in the second half and pounded Birmingham's defence in their quest for the equaliser.

Birmingham certainly made life hard for themselves with the exit of McSheffrey but they battled against the odds.