Aston Villa 1-0 Birmingham City

How cruel for Birmingham fans to see their team to come to the ground of their hated rivals, have an equal share of the game and more clear cut chances, yet still suffer defeat. Even worse a defeat that leaves their neighbours with a slim chance of playing Champions League football next season. For the second time this season Villa stole all three derby-day points with a goal in the last ten minutes. For the second time it was an unconvincing and barely deserved victory.

A home win looked the least likely outcome as the second half wore on. Uninspired though Villa were in the first half, they still managed to create opportunities and pass through Birmingham's packed midfield on occasion. In the second forty-five even these rare moments of quality deserted the home side, and Blues grew in confidence as a result, seriously threatening to score four times in quick succession.

Yet whatever credit Birmingham's players should claim for their composed performance in this period will be overshadowed by some less savoury moments. First was the unfurling of a bed-sheet banner in the Birmingham fans section which read 'Danny Is A Grass'. This refers to one witnesses of the tragic murder of Christopher Priest, run over after the last derby at Villa Park by three Birmingham fans, who are now in prison.

Sadly it isn't the first time Blues fans have chosen to show their support for the jailed driver Lee Mockble, and I doubt it will be the last. Anyone who wants to read more about this story and find out the facts can do so here.

This crass behaviour off the pitch was then matched by those wearing blue and white shirts on it. I would have been angry if that penalty was given against us (though many have supported Atkinson's decision) but Stephen Carr's fit of spitting, stamping rage and scuffing up of the penalty spot was disgraceful for a club captain. Walking off the pitch he then made an obscene gesture in the direction of the North Stand - our family stand. He'll probably now become a club legend, no doubt joining Paul Tait (look him up).

Derby games always have an electric atmosphere and we know that emotions run high in the stadium, but it is the responsibility of players - particularly captains - to try and maintain their professionalism. Carr lost his, as ours have in the past, and he deserves his one match ban.

All of which obscures what was a vital victory for Villa. Now we go to Man City in the knowledge that a positive result will give us a good chance of finishing fifth, which in my view would cap a great season, and a win leaves us with a glimmer of fourth and all its glamour. Reading various recent articles one could be forgiven for thinking the Premiership is rubbish this year, what with Chelsea and Manchester United having the temerity to actually lose games. On the contrary, I think it has been a fantastic season, and long may the challenge to the sky-sponsored hegemony continue.