West Brom 2 Birmingham City 0
After beating Manchester City in their last game of January to raise hopes, Bryan Robson’s team had gone through February without winning and those had begun to fade again.
For game 28, the first in March, it was Birmingham City that visited the Hawthorns for the friendlier of the local derbies. Blues had been promoted to the Premier League with Albion in 2002 but had adapted better to life back in the top flight with two mid-table finishes under Robson’s former United teammate, Steve Bruce, and were once again in a comfortable 13th place ahead of the game.
With the FA Cup fifth round leaving Albion without a game for the last weekend of February, they had a game in hand on their relegation rivals ahead of the weekend.
Crystal Palace had beaten Steve Bruce’s side moving four points clear of the drop zone, seven ahead of the Baggies while Southampton picked up a point with a draw against Arsenal. Norwich City were beaten 3-2 by Manchester City on the Monday night game most remembered for Delia Smith’s “let’s be ‘avin’ you” half time speech on the pitch.
Furthermore, with Albion playing on the Sunday, the other three clubs had the opportunity to pull further clear with their Saturday games – both Southampton and Palace picked up points, beating Spurs and drawing with Manchester United respectively, although the Canaries were beaten again at home by Chelsea.
Those results meant that, on the morning of the game, Albion were eight points behind Crystal Palace in 17th place, albeit with two games in hand, but victory would move them off the bottom of the table.
The feeling was that the Baggies had to win this game and they started brightly with Neil Clement seeing a header deflected over the bar by Kenny Cunningham early on. Next, Kevin Campbell missed a glorious chance when Maik Taylor in the Blues goal could only parry Horsfield’s shot, but the veteran striker failed to connect properly and Jamie Clapham was able to clear off the line. Richardson then hit the post and Gera had an effort well saved by Taylor and somehow Blues escaped the hosts’ early onslaught.
Little else happened in that first period, but shortly after break, Zoltán Gera produced one of the iconic moments of the season. He chased down an overhit pass down the line some how caught up and stopped the ball on the goalline with his heel heading towards the advertising haoardings – he then got up and managed to get back to the ball to challenge Stan Lazaridis to win the corner. From Richardson’s corner, Neil Clement was left unmarked and he headed home to give Albion a crucial lead.
Blues came close to equalising when Emile Heskey hit the post but the Baggies doubled their lead on 64 minutes. Horsfield harried Cunningham into an error and the ball fell for Jonathan Greening whose cross was guided home by Kevin Campbell (pictured).
Albion held out for the remainder of the game and the 2-0 win saw them move off the bottom of the table for the first time since November but they were still five points from Crystal Palace in 17th.
Premier League Table – 6th March 2005
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