BIRMINGHAM, February 8- Veteran Kevin Phillips' double late strike here on Sunday put a dampener on Wolves manager Mick McCarthy's 51st birthday celebrations as Birmingham City came from behind to win 2-1.
Ironically Phillips may have been allowed to leave the club on loan for the remainder of the season, if Birmingham manager Alex McLeish had been successful in securing the services of Roman Pavlyuchenko in the January transfer window and the Scot’s frustration and missing the Russian on transfer deadline day proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Phillips had not even appeared at this level for over two months, but he spared Birmingham their first home defeat since last December with a brilliant second half cameo that indicated he has lost none of his goalscoring instincts, even if his 35-year-old legs can no longer carry him through an entire Premier League game.
The former England striker single-handedly deprived Wolves of a crack at the Premier League in 2006-07 with four goals in as many appearances including both play-off semi-final games in that Championship season and he was the scourge of McCarthy’s team again.
The 35-year-old was only introduced as a 63rd minute substitute with Alex McLeish’s side trailing to Kevin Doyle’s sixth goal of the season, but two goals in six minutes turned the game on its head.
Phillips still has the glorious knack of being in the right place at the right time and rounded off a movement involving fellow substitutes Keith Fahey and Craig Gardner 11 minutes from time with a close range volley to defeat Marcus Hahnemann to give McLeish some reward from a game Birmingham barely looked capable of winning.
If that was not enough of an unwanted birthday present for McCarthy five minutes from time Phillips chested down Stephen Carr’s cross before sending a searing volley beyond Hahnemann to leave Wolves deeper in relegation trouble.
Until Phillips arrival a Birmingham victory seemed fanciful and a rare defeat appeared in the offing.
Birmingham’s miserly defensive record has been one of the chief reasons for their impressive surge into the top half of the table, but for once it failed them to give Wolves a fortuitous advantage three minutes before the interval and cost them for missing earlier chances of their own.
Cameron Jerome should have scored with a header from inside the six-yard box, whatever the merits of Michael Mancienne’s intervention, while Christian Benitez and Scott Dann experienced the frustration of near misses from set pieces.
It was not exactly against the run of play, as Wolves had had opportunities of their own, most notably Ronald Zubar heading Matt Jarvis’s free-kick wide from two-yards, when Birmingham were forced to concede only the ninth goal against them at St Andrew’s, albeit with a hint of misfortune.
Another Jarvis delivery from the width of the left, after Karl Henry’s astute pass, struck the heel of Roger Johnson, wrong-footed Joe Hart, bounced off the foot of the post and Doyle’s awareness and reaction time was faster than anyone else’s.