Before kick-off, in a colourful tribute to the Birmingham owner Carson Yeung, St Andrew's was treated to a pair of Chinese lions dancing in the centre circle. For much of the afternoon they threatened to be the highlight, but a remarkable second half saw three goals, a missed penalty, some superb goalkeeping, and, at the final whistle, Birmingham's unbeaten home record stretched to 16 games.

Craig Gardner's two goals, one turned home from close range, the second bobbling past Paul Robinson from distance means that Arsenal's visit to St Andrew's last October remains Birmingham's last home league defeat.

"We stress the importance of winning home games and we also stress the fantastic record the players got last season," said the City manager Alex McLeish. "They've continued that. The spirit of the players, the resilience of them - I need to find some new words because I was using these words every week last season. I might get the Oxford dictionary out."

The opening half was dire, with the 6ft 8in Nikola Zigic, on his home debut, too often providing a temptation for the Blues to go long. Liam Ridgewell came closest to breaking the deadlock, but thumped his header too close to Paul Robinson.

As they chatted amiably while walking back to the dug-outs, Sam Allardyce and McLeish showed no signs of having dished out a half-time rollicking, but whatever was said certainly had an impact. First Zigic tangled with Christopher Samba to win a penalty. Morten Gamst Pedersen hammered the spot-kick, but Ben Foster made the first of a series of superb saves, tipping the ball on to the bar, a stop described by McLeish as one of the best he had ever seen from the spot.

It was only to be a reprieve, however, for five minutes later, Steven Nzonzi rose highest to head Pedersen's corner past the stranded goalkeeper.

The lead lasted barely three minutes, James McFadden's wonderful cushioned volley across goal creating the chance for Gardner. Nikola Kalinic should then have restored the lead but flicked a header onto the post and, with less than 20 minutes remaining, Gardner was offered space 25 yards out and bounced a shot past Robinson.

"It's a typical achilles heel of ours, not being able to take advantage of dominating the game," said a frustrated Allardyce. "Today we've paid the price."

THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICTKYM YPRES-SMITH, The saying about football being a game of two halves was entirely right in this game. Both teams seemed to cancel each other out in the first half but it really livened up in the second half, with Foster's penalty save sparking the game into life. We conceded but then we went up the other end and equalised. After we went ahead, Rovers really battered us but we just about deserved the win. Foster did extremely well, particularly having to replace Joe Hart, and was voted man of the match, and local boy Gardner stood out. Very tall players can end up looking like donkeys but Zigic looked fairly elegant.

The fan's player ratings Foster 9; Carr 8, Johnson 8,Dann 7, Ridgewell 7; Larsson 7, Ferguson 8, Gardner 9 (Fahey 82 n/a), McFadden 6 (Bowyer 77 6); Jerome 5, Zigic 6 (Derbyshire 66 6)

MIKE DELAP, It was absolutely typical Rovers on the road. They get a foot in the game and control it, but when chances come our way we don't put them away then we make mistakes at the back and up losing. Birmingham didn't deserve a point in my opinion. Last year we lost here 2-1 as well and didn't deserve anything more, but this time I've no idea how we didn't win. Our best player was Samba but Kalinic did a handsome job of holding up the ball. We're getting to the point where the takeover is needed to keep up with teams above us. We shouldn't go 'kamikaze' with the spending but we do need to replace an aging squad.

The fan's player ratings Robinson 6; Salgado 7, Samba 9, Nelsen 7, Givet 6 (M Diouf 73 5); Jones 6 (Emerton 64 5), Nzonzi 7; E Diouf 6, Pedersen 7, Olsson 7; Kalinic (Hoilett 84 n/a)

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