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Our festive programme got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over Birmingham City in what was a cagey encounter at the Lane.

Our festive programme got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over Birmingham City in what was a cagey encounter at the Lane.

Boxing Day thrills and spills were a bit thin on the ground as Birmingham, certainly initially, mounted a rearguard action in a bid to get their season off the ground and towards emerging from the bottom three.

It was not to be for the St Andrews side, but it took a penalty from Robbie Keane to break what was becoming a frustrating deadlock and - even after the harsh dismissal of Muzzy Izzet - they held firm and offered no sign of collapse.

It was in stoppage time that Jermain Defoe added a gloss to the scoreline.

There was just the one change from the 3-3 sharing of the spoils with Middlesbrough last time out with Aaron Lennon starting in place of the injured Andy Reid. His inclusion gives the team a little more natural width - not to mention blinding pace - and offers the opportunity to sometimes revert to a three-man midfield with Keane and Lennon acting as support strikers to Mido.

There was an early scare for Birmingham when a slip by Matthew Upson gave the speedy Lennon a sight of the goal, but the ball would just not sit right for him to strike and the defender was able to recover his error. The visitors then had a chance themselves when a Stan Lazaridis fell at the feet of Jiri Jarosik seven yards out and his effort landed just wide.

The ebb and flow of the game then laboured slightly for the next 15 or so minutes as the boys continued to doorstep around the Birmingham penalty but rarely received an invitation to advance any further from the stubborn Blues who camped around the 18-yard box.

Their defences were nearly breached when Michael Carrick cleverly threaded the ball through to Keane who, in turn, squared in the direction of Lennon. The end result was a corner when it looked for a moment like the deadlock would be broken. Steve Bruce's side then began to come out of their shell a bit as the half hour mark passed without real incident and a hint of frustration was creeping in.

Birmingham's stall was well and truly set out and the boys would have to navigate a route around it

Maik Taylor prevented his side springing a leak on 37 minutes when he saved well from Ledley King following a deep Carrick corner.

In all honesty, the first half lacked fluency and entertainment from teams in need of points for very different reasons. A contrast in circumstances that often adds up to stalemate.

Paul Robinson was forced into action for the first time just after the break with a smart save to his near post from Julian Gray before, from the resulting corner, Mido was forced to head over his own crossbar to avert further danger. Birmingham was being more positive in their approach after weather the early mild storm.

Birmingham's little bubble was burst on 57 minutes when Upson upended Keane inside the area and referee Mr Dowd did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. It was really what the game needed and, after missing his last one, Keane was not about to do the same again and cooly stuck his kick to Taylor's left and rattled the net. The Park Lane end naturally suggested Robbo should take it...

Soon after Keane could have doubled his tally for the match when Edgar Davids played him in on goal but, under pressure from Lazaridis, his rising shot was clutched by Taylor.

Muzzy Izzet tried to level the penalty count on 65 minutes and it did appear he was caught by Michael Dawson. The already booked midfielder was given his marching orders by Mr Dowd and could probably consider himself a little hard done by.

King then hobbled off with what looked like a knee problem, which signalled a return to first team action for Noe Pamarot - who was then promptly booked. After an escape at our end a punt upfield actually set substitute Jermain Defoe off on goal but he could not get enough purchase on his shot and it rolled tamely across goal.

Lingering nerves were settled a couple of minutes in added time when, from a Birmingham free-kick chance at the other end, Jermaine Jenas brilliantly broke clear and quickly found Defoe - who was able to advance and blast into the roof of the net.

It was not a great spectacle, but it is three points and they do say the important wins are the ones where you don't play well and come away with the bounty.