Burnley 2 Birmingham 1: Lone striker puts McLeish on the defensive
05 October 2009 01:03
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As he attempted to persuade a sceptical audience that Birmingham are not a negative team, Alex McLeish grew increasingly defensive himself.
Don't expect the Birmingham manager to see the irony in that. Don't expect him to become a convert to the cause of a second striker, either, no matter how vocal the criticism.
But, just as Garry O'Connor was a lone forward in his undermanned attack, McLeish was a lone voice in support of the visitors' controversial 4-5-1 formation.
'I know tactics more than some of the critics, in fact more than probably every one of them,' he said. 'Away from home I still think there's scope for the tactic. The two goals we have conceded are nothing to do with formations or tactics. But we've created more with one up front.'
But his argument is being undermined by his team. Although Lee Bowyer missed from four yards in the first half, each of Birmingham's meagre total of five league goals has come after another forward has been introduced.
None has arrived before the 75th minute and Sebastian Larsson's consolation strike at Turf Moor was so late it was as irrelevant as it was elegant.
Blue day: Birmingham's James McFadden glides past Wade Elliott
But McLeish said: 'We're not trying to play negatively. If you look at the team we've put out, yes, we've played five midfielders, but they are all attack-minded. There isn't a defensive player in the group.
'It's a 4-5-1 when we're defending but it's a 4-3-3 when we're attacking, with James McFadden and Keith Fahey supporting O'Connor and getting Lee Bowyer forward to make a fourth man.
'Burnley lined up the same way and they were the home team, so I can't understand why people are getting on our backs.' But McLeish's view jarred with that of his old friend, the Burnley manager Owen Coyle. He said: 'They came with a shape and had a lot of players behind the ball. We pushed on to win.'
Burnley maintained their 100 per cent record at Turf Moor after a muchimproved second-half display.
Clinching the points: Andre Bikey puts Burnley two up as he slots one past Joe Hart in the Birmingham goal
Steven Fletcher opened the scoring with a low drive after Tyrone Mears led a rapid counter-attack before Andre Bikey, a defender operating in midfield, finished like a forward following a onetwo with David Nugent.
Bikey celebrated his goal with a double somersault, Larsson with a jog back to the centre circle. That rather summed up the difference between Burnley's delight and Birmingham's plight.
BURNLEY (4-2-3-1): Jensen 6; Mears 8, Carlisle 7, Caldwell 7, Jordan 6; Alexander 7, Bikey 8; Fletcher 8 (Eagles 73min, 6), Elliott 7, Blake 7 (Kalvenes 90); Nugent 7 (Thompson 87).
BIRMINGHAM (4-1-4-1): Hart 5; Carr 6, Johnson 7, Dann 6, Queudrue 6 (Ridgewell 46min, 5); Ferguson 5; McFadden 5, Bowyer 5, Tainio 6 (Phillips 67, 6), Fahey 5 (Larsson 46, 7); O'Connor 5. Booked: Dann, Carr, Ferguson.
Man of the match: Tyrone Mears.
Referee: Kevin Friend.