Birmingham and Aston Villa fought out a goalless draw in the Championship derby at St Andrew’s.
With Villa chasing promotion and Birmingham battling to pull away from the relegation zone, there was a lot more than local pride at stake.
The arch-rivals both had excellent chances to win the game, Jota wasting Birmingham’s best opportunity while Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia was denied by goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak before Keinan Davis hit the City post.
Birmingham, who have failed to beat Villa in their last 11 league meetings, are now two points clear of the relegation zone while sixth-placed Villa are level on points with Leeds in fifth.
Villa dominated the opening stages but struggled to really test Kuszczak. Kodjia’s long-range drive after eight minutes was comfortably dealt with before Glenn Whelan saw his shot deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, which was delayed after Villa’s Robert Snodgrass was bombarded with cardboard clappers thrown by the Birmingham fans, John Terry had a weak header easily collected by Kuszczak.
Birmingham then finally managed to get a foothold in the game with record signing Jota, who was making his home debut after being hit by hamstring problems following his switch from Brentford, trying his luck from 20 yards in the 29th minute.
David Davis’ cross was dealt with by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone only for the on-loan Manchester United man to see his clearance charged down by Isaac Vassell, with the ball flying narrowly wide.
There was more relied for Johnstone in the 38th minute when Cheikh N’Doye headed a cross straight at him from 12 yards.
Birmingham carried that momentum into the second half and really should have taken the lead in the 49th minute after a mistake by Villa’s Conor Hourihane.
His misplaced pass was collected by Jota, who raced towards goal with just Johnstone to beat only to lift his shot wildly over the bar.
The Villa goal continued to live a charmed life as substitute Sam Gallagher stabbed narrowly over the top after 59 minutes from six yards.
Having soaked up so much Birmingham pressure, Villa then came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 63rd minute when only a wonder save at his near post by Kuszczak kept out Kodjia’s header following a cross from Albert Adomah.
Terry then flicked a free-kick from Hourihane agonisingly wide three minutes later.
Now it was Birmingham’s turn to ride their luck and they needed the post to come to their rescue after 77 minutes when the ball broke off Kuszczak to substitute Keinan Davis, who saw his angled drive fly off the woodwork.More to follow.