This was very much a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show for Fulham. Paul Bracewell was installed by Mohamed Al-Fayed with a brief to build on Kevin Keegan’s promotion from the Second Division and prepare the big-spending Whites for the promised land of the Premiership. So far the managerial novice’s best results have come in the Cup positions, with the midweek stunning of Spurs, his most significant success yet. After that giantkilling, this dour draw with bloody-minded Birmingham City was dour by comparison.

Bracewell’s frustration was illustrated by the way he removed both of his centre forwards, Geoff Horsfield and Barry Hayles, ten minutes after half time. Neither got any change from a resolute Blues defence. Boss Trevor Francis purred with delight on the touchline – happy that his much-changed side, without his first-choice wingers, and six strikers absent through injury, successfully blunted their hosts’ attacking ambitions. That they did it all with regular centre back Darren Purse pressed into service as a centre forward made this point all the more precious.

Purse finished the afternoon in the referee’s notebook after falling out with Chris Coleman and Fulham’s failure to meaningfully extend Kevin Poole riled former Blues’ forward Paul Peschisolido, who escaped with only a warning after a physical altercation with Birmingham substitute Jerry Gill. The visitors might have completed a classical smash and grab raid were it not for Maik Taylor saving a fierce late drive the energetic Martin O’Connor, who covered every blade of the grass for City in the centre of midfield.

FULHAM (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Symons, Coleman; Davis, Hayward, Clark; Horsfield (Riedle 55, Trollope 89), Hayles (Peschisolido 55). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Morgan.

BOOKED: Brevett, Horsfield, Coleman.

BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Poole; Rowett, Charlton, Johnson, Grainger (Bass 89); Johnston, O’Connor, Hughes (Gill 75), Hyde, Holdsworth, Purse. Subs (not used): Bennett, Newton, Holland.

BOOKED: Rowett, Holdsworth, Purse.

REFEREE: Graham Laws (Tyne and Wear).