Dan Black's verdict as Birmingham City pick Burnley's pocket to steal a point at St Andrews

The Peaky Blinders — depicted by Cillian Murphy's character Thomas Shelby in the TV series — were notorious in Birmingham.

The young scallywags from the Midlands would engage in criminal activities such as robbery, violence, racketeering and illegal bookmaking.

On loan Blues midfielder Hannibal Mejbri even proclaimed to have binge-watched Steven Knight's BBC crime drama to accustom himself to the regional dialect.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And it seemed apparent that the 19-year-old Tunisian, who is on the books at Manchester United, had picked up more than just the lingo as he joined his team-mates in showing that their legend lived on at St Andrews.

Burnley's manager Vincent Kompany gestures at the end of the match The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Birmingham City v Burnley - Wednesday 19th October 2022 - St Andrew's - Birmingham

Pockets were picked and points were pinched on Wednesday night as the home side's portrayal of the infamous city slickers came to life.

The gang's leader, John Eustace, a former Watford defender, had devised a carefully crafted and calculated plan to ensure that the hosts came away in profit.

Stephen Kenny's former number two at the Republic of Ireland had been at Turf Moor to do his homework at the weekend as Burnley battered Swansea City.

He ensured that his side executed their press more purposefully, with more bite, energy, harassment and intent, against a side he conclusively labelled as "the best team in the league".

Burnley's Manuel Benson and Jay Rodriguez competing with Birmingham City's Hannibal Mejbri (2nd left) The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Birmingham City v Burnley - Wednesday 19th October 2022 - St Andrew's - Birmingham

The Clarets had faced similar systems against Luton Town, Millwall, the Swans, and others along the way but, to City's credit, it was the best and most effective implementation of such an approach.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The visitors invited the pressure too often, overplaying in tight areas, and the encouragement of their opponents' high-octane pursuit continually led to poor ball retention and the turnover of possession in threatening areas.

However, they rarely worked a position to test Arijanet Muric who, yet again, didn't have a save to make as the Clarets were held to an eighth stalemate this season.

The Kosovan keeper misjudged Tahith Chong's delivery from a set-piece when Auston Trusty headed wide and the ex-Manchester City stopper combined with Charlie Taylor to snuff out Scott Hogan from close range.

Burnley's Taylor Harwood-Bellis heads at goal The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Birmingham City v Burnley - Wednesday 19th October 2022 - St Andrew's - Birmingham
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There are a few teams that go after you and Birmingham did that in moments, but we've played against the likes of Luton Town and Millwall and Swansea in a way that they're always high and pressing you," accepted boss Vincent Kompany.

"They're all different problems, but with Birmingham we knew they were a good defensive side, they've got a good record, they're solid, and I don't foresee too many problems with them.

"They're a team that's going to grow in strength and a lot of players that they have are a lot of players that I know. I think we've done good recruitment so if I know their names and I know them well it means that we've observed them and we thought a lot of them. They've managed to assemble them so credit to them."

The likes of Nathan Tella, Anass Zaroury and Jay Rodriguez most certainly felt the pinch that Birmingham's physicality imposed, but the away side would still manufacture the openings that would constitute a higher xG.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rodriguez was a post's width away from netting his eighth goal of the campaign when getting on the end of Josh Brownhill's cross, Vitinho ballooned an effort over the bar when picked out, unmarked, by Connor Roberts inside the area, and Taylor Harwood-Bellis got his calculations all wrong when heading a Zaroury cross towards goal.

Eustace's ever-improving Blues had opportunities early in the second half when Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik thumped a volley just wide of the upright from Hannibal's corner and Hogan's header from Troy Deeney's delivery just evaded the target after ricocheting off Harwood-Bellis.

But it was Burnley that got their noses in front for the 12th time on the bounce in all competitions. "We are in the habit of leading, which, to me, is the right way round," said Kompany. "It's better to have many leads than to hang on and come back and we want that habit and it needs to be something we are extremely comfortable at doing."

Johann Berg Gudmundsson had only been on the pitch for four minutes, having replaced Jack Cork with 20 minutes remaining, when scoring his first goal in 20 months to break the deadlock.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Icelandic winger, who has been through his fair share of injury woes, hadn't found the net since a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the Premier League, but his left-footed finish beyond John Ruddy embodied the excellence and artistry of a player that was scoring every week.

He said: “It felt good, it’s been a long time, it’s been a difficult road for me, a lot of injuries obviously and not a lot of time on the pitch so I’m just grateful for every minute I’m on the pitch. To try to help the team, that’s what I did today but it would have been nice if it was the three points.”

The Clarets are now 12 games unbeaten in the division — they're halfway to eclipsing the 23-game unbeaten run under Sean Dyche in 2015/16 — but the Blues' immediate comeback means they've now dropped 12 points from winning positions.

It wasn't quite the last chance saloon, as it had been against West Brom, Cardiff City and Stoke City, but it was a considerable blow to a young side, who looked to have addressed their fragilities and vulnerabilities in the 1-0 win away at Coventry City earlier in the month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Vitinho was high up the pitch when the ball was given away, substitute George Hall burst down the right hand side and Hogan was in the right place at the right time to side-foot the ball past Muric unchallenged.

"I don't think we look too nervous or anything but the way we conceded that game, usually you want to take a little bit of momentum out of the game when you are leading, especially if the other team is pushing and then it settles a bit," Kompany said. "But it is difficult to let it settle when you give away such a cheap goal.

"They scored a big chance and those are always harder to defend. I think we defended corners well, although we gave too many away due to our own fault in tight areas and not realising how to handle the moment.

"But we dealt with them. I think we could have been more aggressive in stopping crosses but we really defended well. But the goal is the one moment that for me is annoying, I wouldn't have minded a 1-0 win the way we were going, especially given Birmingham being in form and a good side."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Burnley dropped to third in the table after QPR beat Cardiff City at Loftus Road to usurp outgoing leaders Blackburn Rovers.