Birmingham 1 – 1 Man Utd

Jerome's first-half strike was not enough for Birmingham at St Andrew'sManchester United missed the chance to go top of the league after salvaging a controversial draw against Birmingham.

A poor clearance from Jonny Evans allowed Cameron Jerome to smash home for the hosts just before half-time.

An own goal from Scott Dann saw the visitors hit back but only after referee Mark Clattenburg had overturned an offside decision from his assistant.

Darren Fletcher was harshly sent off for a second yellow late on but neither side was able to find a winner.

The result sees Sir Alex Ferguson’s side move to within a point of leaders Chelsea, having played one more game.

But the Champions often looked brittle at the back at St Andrew’s and their manager will be desperate for the return of injured duo Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Birmingham miss the chance to leapfrog Liverpool but will be content after setting a new club record of 12 games unbeaten.

Such excellent recent form has coincided with a consistency of selection by manager Alex McLeish and he named an unchanged side for the ninth successive game.

The visitors’ team, however, included only four survivors from the side that lost to Leeds in the FA Cup last weekend, with the omission of Dimitar Berbatov raising the most eyebrows.

That meant Wayne Rooney was left on his own up front and reliant on willing runners from midfield.

Two of them – Fletcher and Paul Scholes – saw shots well blocked in the opening stages but the standard of play unsurprisingly took a while to heat up in a freezing stadium.

As usual it was Rooney who looked the most likely to create something.

The England striker was denied by a brave block from goalkeeper Joe Hart after being put through by Antonio Valencia and then glanced a header wide.

But Birmingham’s well-organised defence stood firm, with central midfielders Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson forming a resolute shield just in front of the back four.

Dann produced another couple of valiant blocks before Liam Ridgewell threw himself in the way of a Rafael da Silva shot.

For all Birmingham’s defensive qualities they looked short of ideas in the final third – but still managed to move ahead just before half-time.

A corner was half cleared by United but nodded back into the danger area by Bowyer. Jonny Evans stuck a foot out on the line but the ball deflected perfectly for Jerome to slam home.

It could have been two straight after the break when Dann’s looping header fell to Chuco Benitez but the Ecuadorian’s shot was straight at Tomasz Kuszczak.

Jermone then wasted a golden opportunity, ballooning over after being set free by Benitez, and saw United level in controversial circumstances.

A blocked shot from Scholes fell for Patrice Evra and his drilled effort deflected off a diving Dann and into the Birmingham net.

The goal was initially ruled out for offside against Rooney but Clattenburg overturned the decision of his assistant and awarded it – to the anger of the Birmingham players.

United pushed forward thereafter but were unable to turn their pressure into goals, with Rooney and Valencia going close.

Fletcher was then harshly awarded a second yellow card for a trip on Jerome, having previously been cautioned for a rash challenge on Bowyer.

Birmingham more than held their own in the dying stages – including six minutes of injury time – but could not turn their pressure into a winner.

United’s record of never having lost to Birmingham in the Premier League therefore remains intact but their quest for title-winning form goes on.