FULL TIME: Birmingham City 3 Burnley 3
Updated 10:18am Thursday 13th March 2014 in Sport
BURNLEY are unbeaten in 13 games, but there was certainly an unlucky feel to the outcome of this one, despite the point keeping them eight points clear in second spot.
The Clarets were in control for long periods, and led 1-0 at half-time through Dean Marney’s second in three games.
No-one could have foreseen what was to come in the second half, though, with Birmingham in such poor form at home.
But the introduction of Federico Macheda led to five goals in a frantic second period, including a controversial late leveller.
Clarets boss Sean Dyche changed his side for the first time in nine games, with Ross Wallace rewarded for his game-changing impact from the bench in Sunday’s derby victory with his first start since the 2-0 home win over Yeovil on August 17. Birmingham have had to wait almost as long for their first home win.
Not since the 4-0 thrashing of Millwall on October 1 have the Blues celebrated a three points at St Andrews.
And that run of 12 games rarely looked like ending last night. Burnley’s win over Rovers was the last in a sequence of three, having overcome top six rivals Nottingham Forest and Derby County at Turf Moor to engineer the chance to go 10 points clear of the play-offs in second.
They did not waste it.
The longer the game went on you sensed that, in Birmingham’s predicament, it seemed it would only need one Burnley breakthrough to open the floodgates.
The Clarets have benefited from keeping a consistent line-up, unlike the Blues, who made four changes following Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to QPR, and experimented with a 4-1-2-3 formation in an attempt to counter Burnley’s attack-minded 4-4-2, with Olly Lee acting as a buffer in front of the back four.
But as well as the strike partnership of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings the Blues had Scott Arfield to contend with too on the numerous occasions that the wide man came narrow to boost the Clarets ammunition. There were glimpses of hope for the home side, but they were fleeting.
Tom Adeyemi caught David Jones napping, somewhat uncharacteristically, and found Chris Burke sprinting down the right.
The winger appeared to be tripped by Arfield on the corner of the box, but the referee ignored his appeals for a foul and Burnley broke.
Ings, fresh from firing the goal that took derby bragging rights to Burnley for the first time since 1979, showed a turn of pace down the left and won a corner when his cross for Vokes was cut out.
Wallace delivered for Kieran Trippier to the right of the box but his ambitious volley, although struck with venom, cleared the bar comfortably.
Burke tried to make something happen once more for Birmingham, and when his ball into the box was headed out by Michael Duff, Tyler Beckett’s follow-up shot was turned behind by Tom Heaton.
Burnley were patient, growing into the game and with confidence, while Birmingham’s visibly ebbed away.
Although there was plenty of endeavour from the home side there was not much in the way of end product.
The home side might say the Clarets got lucky when the breakthrough came, but Dyche’s side have made their own luck this season through sheer hard graft.
Ben Mee’s throw was flicked on by Vokes and knocked into Arfield’s path by Ings to have a run at goal, but after cutting inside from the left the ball was blocked just as he pulled the trigger on the edge of the box.
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