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Birmingham denied by Baggies in Midlands derby draw

London (AFP) – Birmingham City were left waiting for their first win in the second-tier English Championship this season after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to West Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion on Friday.

The Blues, who could be hit with a 12-point deduction by the governing English Football League after allegedly breaking Financial Fair Play rules, took the lead through Jota in the 27th minute and the Spanish winger should have made it 2-0 minutes later only for his poor penalty to be saved by Sam Johnstone.

It proved to be a costly miss, with West Brom equalising six minutes before half-time through Scotland international Matt Phillips. But the draw meant his Baggies side failed to go third. 

Birmingham manager Garry Monk was far from despondent, however, having been encouraged by much of the Blues’ play against their local rivals.

“We played against a very good side — and for me they are probably the best team we have played this season,” said Monk. 

“I could not ask any more of the players in terms of performance and if we continue to play like we did it is only a matter of time before that first win will come our way,” he added. “I was very proud of the performance but we want to give our fans that first victory.”

Meanwhile West Brom manager Darren Moore was happy to come away with a point.

“Birmingham played really well but what impressed me about my team was the discipline of the side,” he said.

“Overall I was pleased with the point as we displayed the character to get back into the game, as they were difficult opponents.”

Birmingham kicked off having failed to win any of their opening six league games but they made a promising start to this encounter at St Andrew’s and were rewarded with the opening goal.

Gary Gardner’s long cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jota squeezed the ball past former Manchester United goalkeeper Johnstone from a tight angle.

The Blues should have been 2-0 up minutes later when Albion’s Kyle Bartley inexplicably handled a cross inside his own penalty area.

But Johnstone dived to his left to keep out Jota’s spot-kick, a good save but one made easier by the ball being struck at waist-height and not close enough to the corner of his goal.

Johnstone’s save gave the Baggies renewed confidence and they were level in the 39th minute when Kristian Pedersen carelessly failed to clear his lines, allowing the admirably persistent Phillips to cut in from the right corner and shoot past Lee Camp.

Che Adams could have made it 2-1 to Birmingham before the break but shot wildly over the bar and he was denied early in the second half by another good Johnstone save.

West Brom almost won the match six minutes from time but Harvey Barnes’s shot came back off the crossbar and the Baggies failed to force the ball home in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.

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