Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic provided the spectators at St Andrew's with what is best described as chloroform football, the inertia only broken and briefly at that when Roger Johnson and Hugo Rodallega came close to a fight, and when Craig Gardner was given a straight red by referee Mark Clattenburg for what he adjudged to be a dangerous tackle on Franco Di Santo.
Related ArticlesArsenal to play Newcastle in Carling CupHleb has to accept Birmingham are no BarcelonaBirmingham City 3 MK Dons 1Benítez wants Aquilani for long haulAlex McLeish signs new Birmingham contractSport on televisionWhether the midfielder deserved his marching orders will be a matter for some debate, and the answer will depend on your point of view.
The home supporters howled in dismay as Clattenburg produced his card, but Gardner's studs were up, even if subsequent television replays suggested that he only went in with one foot, and that he got the ball.
Clattenburg was perfectly placed for the midfielder's challenge. A tough one.
The spat between Johnson and Rodallega had more substance, arising on the half hour mark as both men jumped for the same header and Johnson appeared to receive an elbow in the face. He certainly pursued his opponent as if he had.
Rodallega responded by touching heads never a butt and the scene turned into a market square at closing time as players converged, the home supporters stirring things nicely, taunting Rodallega and imploring that legendary ruffian Lee Bowyer to 'sort him out'.
Clattenberg defused the situation as best he could, booking both, Rodallega accepting the punishment quietly, Johnson like a petulant schoolboy. Any sympathy one might have had for the Birmingham defender dissipated as he refused to let the issue rest Stephen Carr was forced to issue a stern rebuke.
Beyond the two episodes there was little excitement, although Birmingham created enough chances to win. That they did not will have troubled the sleep of Cameron Jerome, who had two good opportunities to score and send his side above local rivals Aston Villa.
Birmingham's first opportunity came as early as the 3rd minute, Alexander Hleb allowed a first time volley as the ball dropped in the area eight yards out from goal. The midfielder pulled it wide. Jerome was even more wasteful when Larsson delivered a cross onto the striker's head at the far post, but he failed to find the target.
Larsson gave him another go in first-half injury time, Jerome rounding Steve Gohouri, who resorted to hauled him back. Jerome threw himself down, artistically flicking back his hair and flinging his arms skywards as if he had just connected with an Iron Mike special.
Ali Al Habsi dropped the free-kick, and Jerome somehow failed to profit from point blank range.