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18:47 28th December 2009

Stoke City 0 Birmingham City 1

THE CURTAIN was brought down on 2009 in disappointing fashion as Stoke City slipped to 1-0 defeat against in-form Birmingham City.

Camerone Jerome's strike just minutes into the second half was enough to inflict a third successive loss on Tony Pulis' side in a game that City really should have taken at least a point.

The hosts rued a series of spurned opportunities in front of goal when Jerome prodded the Blues into the lead in the 50th minute, before they stood firm to soak up everything the Potters had to throw at them.

Pulis made five changes to his starting line-up following the 2-0 reverse at Manchester City with both Glenn Whelan and Salif Diao missing through suspension. Andy Wilkinson was ruled out with an injury, whilst the City boss dropped Danny Collins and Mamady Sidibe down to the bench.

Their places in the starting eleven were taken by Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Liam Lawrence, Rory Delap and James Beattie, whilst Birmingham boss Alex McCleish kept faith with the same eleven which bravely held Chelsea to a draw just 48 hours earlier.

City, who had failed to win in their previous five games, looked by far the brighter of the two teams during the initial exchanges. Ryan Shawcross glanced Lawrence's in-swinging corner wide in the fifth minute, before fellow defender Huth failed to make contact with Etherington's ball into the danger zone.

The assault on the Blues' penalty area showed no signs of stopping as the tireless Tuncay continued to impress up front; and it was he who teed up Lawrence with a clever back heel in the 15th minute, however Scott Dann was on hand to divert his close range effort wide.

From the resulting corner, Shawcross again had a glorious chance to fire the Potters ahead, but agonisingly he misjudged Tuncay's flick on and watched the ball sail harmlessly across the six-yard box.

Birmingham, who were looking to extend their eight game unbeaten run, were restricted to just a handful of long range strikes during the first half an hour, but they went dangerously close to taking the lead against the run of play in the 32nd minute.

Lee Bowyer's corner caused a mass scramble inside the City six-yard box, and when Christian Benitez found a sight of goal, Shawcross threw himself in front of the ball to deny the Ecuadorian, before Sorensen comfortably gathered the ball.

Straight up at the other end, a classic counter attack resulted in Tuncay flicking the ball through to the lively Etherington, however, after beating Stephen Carr he blazed the ball over Joe Hart's crossbar.

James Beattie was next to try his luck, but again his header failed to trouble Hart after he rose highest to meet Etherington's dangerous ball into the box.

Right on the stroke of half time, Abdoulaye Faye came to City's rescue as he made a superb last ditch tackle to deny Benitez , just as he looked set to fire Birmingham into a half time lead.

The Blues didn't have to wait long to break the deadlock though... 15 minutes in fact as more or less straight from the restart City were behind.

James McFadden's corner from the left was diverted inadvertently towards Jerome and from three-yards he scrambled the ball over the line, despite the brave attempt from Sorensen to save his close range effort.

On-loan Manchester City stopper Hart then twice in quick succession somehow denied the Potters an equaliser. Firstly, he exceptionally palmed away a fierce drive from Etherington after Lawrence had picked him out, then moments later he plucked Faye's goalbound header off the line with arguably the save of the season.

City pinned the visitors back into the own half but the dependable Roger Johnson and Dann at the heart of their defence continued to frustrate the Potters. Referee Martin Atkinson then waved away what appeared to be a clear penalty when Huth was dragged to the floor by Carr as he looked to get on the end of Lawrence's centre.

The players and supporters then began to show their frustration as lady luck looked to have deserted the Potters, and when Whitehead's goal-bound shot deflected inches over the bar, it certainly looked like it wasn't to be City's day.

Pulis thrust on Fuller and Sidibe in one final hope of clawing their way back into the game, but it was Birmingham who went close to doubling their advantage. Benitez, who dons the name 'chucho' on the back of his shirt set off on a darting run down the right flank and whipped the ball across to Jerome, only for the striker to see his strike saved well by Sorensen.

With time desperately running out, Sorensen charged up field for a late corner, but he was unable to inspire what would have been a thoroughly deserved equaliser as Birmingham held on to move up to seventh in the league table.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955