Birmingham City 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

Last updated : 01 May 2005 By Footymad Previewer
Steve Bruce, Birmingham City's manager, described Emile Heskey as England's best striker after the former Liverpool star grabbed a late winner.

Bruce witnessed a storming comeback from Birmingham who had trailed to a Jonathan Stead goal at half-time.

Afterwards he claimed: "Heskey has had his critics but he has done fantastically well for us. This is his tenth goal of the season and without him we could possibly have been in trouble.

"If you want a typical English centre-forward for me there is no-one better in the country. It doesn't surprise me he is back in the England squad because for me he has no competition."

Mark Hughes was disappointed with the outcome. He admitted: "Once Birmingham equalised it was difficult for us to get back into the game.

"We have made a huge effort this season and it important that we finish on the right note.

"Obviously, we cannot say what impact Robbie Savage would have had on the game. I was aware of the agreement but we felt Birmingham would give us the opportunity to play Robbie, but they didn't want him to take part in the match.

"I telephoned Steve Bruce but he didn't want Robbie to play because of the club's decision and he would abide by what had been agreed.

"It was an opportunity to put everything behind us but now we will have the same situation next season."

Hughes was pleased with Stead's 13th minute strike which certainly livened up the game and made it from dull and meaningless, but was disappointed Rovers could not hang on to their lead.

The former Huddersfield striker's second goal of the season once again highlighted Birmingham's shortcomings at home which have cost them dearly this season.

On this occasion they made amends with their late resurgence to take three points for only the second time in ten games against Blackburn.

There had been a promising start from Birmingham with Walter Pandiani in particular an early danger with a powerful shot against the post and a close-range header.

Jermaine Pennant had created both chances but the youngster, who joined Birmingham from Arsenal midweek, strived manfully to plot Blackburn's downfall in a hectic first half but with little success.

He provided a non-stop service from the right but no-one was on hand to take advantage of his quality play, as was indicated when Pandiani failed again to score from close range.

New Zealander Ryan Nelsen, who has made such an impressive start to his Premiership career, was again the cornerstone of Blackburn's impressive away performance.

He rarely ventured far from his central defensive role and consequently Birmingham experienced problems breaking down the opposition despite the tantalising play of Pennant.

It was not until the 60th minute that Birmingham finally broke down Blackburn's resistance when Robbie Blake grabbed the equaliser within a minute of replacing Mehdi Nafti.

The goal sparked off a blistering finish and with Heskey suddenly finding some determined form and the England striker snatched the superb 80th minute winner.

The ball ran loose into the path of Heskey who rammed his shot into the back of the net with the kind of lethal finishing which made him a star in the early part of his career.

Man of the Match: Jermaine Pennant - Maintained his impressive form for Birmingham since his arrival from Arsenal and showed that a £3million fee could prove to be a bargain.