Birmingham deliver late blow to Tottenham
Birmingham City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Gareth Bale, bought for £10m three years ago, is at last applying the substance to all that teenage potential.
Against Fulham last Tuesday, Bale, at the 23rd time of asking, had finally won a Premier League game in which he had started. At St Andrew's, it should have been a case of two in four days after none in 885. Yet the 20-year-old was hardly to blame for that.
In fact, it was the Welshman's cross which led to Jermain Defoe's seemingly decisive goal. It capped a performance which stood out for both its solidity and its flair. Since Benoît Assou-Ekotto injured his hip at the start of the month, Bale has threatened to make the left-back berth his own.
"Benoît was playing as well as anyone in the country – but he has got his work cut out to get back in the team with the way this kid is playing," said the manager, Harry Redknapp. "Gareth is looking like the player we thought he was. He has stepped in there and done a great job.
"His heading is good, he is full of energy, he has got a great left foot, he gets forward. The difference with him now is that his defensive side of his game has improved – he had to do that. I think the penny dropped in the same way with Glen [Johnson] when I had him at Portsmouth and he became, for me, the best right-back around. The thing is, Gareth is still only a kid."
It was the other left-back who had most influence on the result. As injury time began, Liam Ridgewell was there in the box to side-foot in Cameron Jerome's header. The point was more than Birmingham deserved as they extended their unbeaten run at home to 10 games. When Redknapp looked at the table his frustration intensified. "It's so tight," he said. "If we had won we would be in great shape. But Villa had a big win away and Liverpool have won. The race for fourth is going to the wire."
To be fair to Birmingham they did create some openings. But their strikers are not nearly clinical enough to justify starting for a team in eighth place. So Alex McLeish's requirement on this, the last day of the transfer window is obvious. He has all but given up on signing Roman Pavlyuchenko after the Spurs board turned down a £10m offer – maybe he shouldn't.
Redknapp would confirm that in this strange market no deal is dead. After all he spent most of Saturday believing the Younes Kaboul move from Portsmouth had broken down. In fact, he only discovered the defender was on his way for £5m after the match when journalists told him the official announcement was already on the website. Google knew, 'Arry didn't. Strange, indeed.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart, Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson (Fahey, 58), Bowyer (Madera, 65), Ferguson, McFadden; Benitez, Jerome. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Queudrue, D Johnson, Vignal, Gardner.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Bale; Bentley (Jenas, 89), Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric; Crouch, Defoe (Keane, 78). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Hutton, Bassong, Kranjcar, Rose.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
Booked: Birmingham R Johnson, Bowyer, McFadden, Carr; Tottenham Palacios, Defoe.
Man of the match: Bale