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Alex McLeish was magnanimous in defeat after seeing his Birmingham side miss out on a deserved point at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The Blues looked as though they might hit the 40-point mark after Chris Baird headed into his own net after three minutes and they missed good chances to increase their lead. Damien Duff’s drive levelled matters on 60 minutes and, right on the 90 minutes, Bobby Zamora curled home a classy free-kick to give Fulham the win.

McLeish has previously stated that he wishes to emulate the work done at Fulham by Roy Hodgson and struck a similar note after the final whistle.

We lost because of two pieces of inspiration from Fulham, the finishes were brilliant. That is the difference in quality that we have to aspire to.

I didn’t feel there was any real rhythm from either team and I felt it was a nothing game until Damien Duff took a hand in proceedings. And Bobby Zamora was the big difference. Today, my players had a hard game against one of the best strikers in the league.

If they are going to step up to the next level, they have to overcome players like him.