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Birmingham City 2 Burnley 1
OLD habits die hard.
Just when Burnley thought their luck was in and a point had been salvaged against all odds, defensive disaster struck.
Only for their dogged determination did the Clarets deserve to be level going into stoppage time. Birmingham had otherwise been by far the better team and could easily have had this game wrapped up by half-time.
Having got within touching distance of a draw though, as Marvin Bartley's early second half effort signalled a revival, there was no excuse for letting it slip through their grasp.
But the goals which book-ended this Championship clash - Jean Beausejour's opener and Chris Burke's late winner - were once more made too easy for a team which has not lost at home in the league all season.
Burnley never looked capable of ending that enviable run of results.
With three straight defeats going into the game, the last of which was a hammer blow at home to Leeds United after leading for the most part, the Clarets looked shorn of confidence.
They had held out until the 76th minute on Saturday. There were less than two minutes on the clock before their beleaguered backline was unravelled at St Andrew's last night.
After linking with Nikola Zigic, Chris Burke had a clear sight of goal as the defence moved one way when the winger moved the other.
Lee Grant made himself big and blocked the shot with his right leg.
But no-one moved to close Beausejour down when the ball bounced off the crossbar and into the path of the Chilean, who rifled it back past Grant.
Burke continued to keep the Clarets keeper on his toes. A shot across him was saved, while the relief was tangible when Burke's poor touch from a ball upfield spared him a one- on-one.
It was set up to be a long night for the visitors, who risked being the architects of their own downfall as the nerves set in.
David Edgar didn't deserve the two goals against at the weekend but looked jittery in the first 45 minutes last night and conceded an unnecessary corner when he fluffed a clearance in the box.
Beausejour's delivery found the head of Zigic - who won everything in the air - but he couldn't direct it on target.
Burnley got the first of few sights of goal in the 14th minute when Jay Rodriguez chested down for Sam Vokes, but the striker - making his full debut with Charlie Austin ruled out with another dislocated shoulder - scuffed wide from just outside the area.
Keith Treacy, who had warranted his stay in the line-up after impressing both on and off the ball against Leeds, tried to curl the ball past Boaz Myhill with his toe end from a similar distance just before the half-hour.
Keiran Trippier and Ross Wallace put decent balls into the box.
But these were only half chances in a game that Birmingham bossed and really deserved to be well ahead in by the break.
How Marlon King didn't at least double their lead before half-time is a question the striker will ask himself a million times over.
Zigic was outstanding, but didn't have to work hard to rob Edgar of the ball midway inside the Burnley half.
Hunted by back-tracking Clarets, the Serbian striker unselfishly squared for the unmarked King, who should have made it 2-0 but somehow rolled the ball wide of an empty net.
It was a gargantuan let-off, which offered Eddie Howe's men half-time hope and a sense of how Leeds had felt, after being second-best to the Clarets for much of Saturday's game.
Leeds saw their opponents' missed chances as a window of opportunity and took full advantage to turn the game on its head.
Burnley took a leaf out of the Yorkshire club's book and had a more gutsy approach to the second half, equalising four minutes after the re-start.
Wallace dusted himself off to take the free kick after being fouled by Beaujesour 25 yards out, and then the corner after it deflected off Stephen Carr. Treacy received it short before returning the ball to allow Wallace to pick out Bartley in the box. The midfielder fired through a sea of bodies and a wicked deflection diverted it past Myhill.
Howe freshened up the midfield just before the half-hour, with Dean Marney replacing captain McCann, who was struggling with a neck problem.
Marney was almost an immediate casualty when he went down holding his leg less than two minutes after his introduction, but the former Hull enforcer ran it off to provide some much-needed back-up to a defence that came under the cosh as the Blues searched for a winner.
Keith Fahey fizzed over from 25 yards, Zigic looped a header over from a right wing cross, Curtis Davies' downwards header was blocked out by team-mate King and the Clarets cleared.
But there was no let-up.
Easton was booked for lunging in on the marauding Burke and the decision was taken to bring on Andre Amougou, for Treacy, to defend the free kick and the remaining minutes.
But it was Amougou who David Murphy ghosted past to deliver the cross for Burke to break Burnley's hearts.
Howe will hope it doesn't break their spirit as their quest to climb away from the bottom three gets ever tougher.
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