McLeish hits out as Villa steal a march

BIRMINGHAM boss Alex McLeish lashed out at referee Martin Atkinson after a late, hotly-disputed penalty took local rivals Aston Villa level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for a Champions League place.

Atkinson pointed to the spot seven minutes from time after Blues defender Roger Johnson appeared to win the ball in a challenge with Gabriel Agbonlahor.

James Milner fired the resulting kick past the otherwise impressive City keeper Joe Hart, leaving McLeish fuming.

“I shook his hand at the end as I always do with the refs and said: ‘you called it wrong, the big decision and you didn’t get it right, I didn’t think you were up with play to make that call’. He clearly wasn’t up with play.”

Villa boss Martin O’Neill added: “It’s a major victory for us.”

Birmingham enjoyed the better of the chances in his 100th second city derby in the top-flight, but found Villa stopper Brad Friedel in inspired form.