IT'S only November, and talk of a relegation battle may seem slightly premature.
But Burnley's first half performance against Birmingham, coupled with their apparent inability to see games out, suggested that troubled times lie ahead.
It started in the worst possible manner though the finish was even more detrimental; a ninth goal given up in the final 10 minutes in all competitions now.
The Clarets were allowed to bask in possession early on with little pressure being applied by Birmingham's front men. But, once the away side conceded possession,
Chris Hughton's side mounted the onslaught.
Skipper Stephen Carr, Jonathan Spector and Chris Burke were all involved in an intricate passage of play down the right; the latter then swapped passes infield with £6m. Serbian striker Nikola Zigic before firing an effort against the legs of Grant which cannoned back off the bar. However, Jean Beausejour stormed in from the angle of the penalty area to rifle the rebound in to the roof of the net with only two minutes on the clock.
Burke and Zigic continued to threaten and it was the Scot who broke in to the area again though Lee Grant showed good hands to stoop low and grasp the centre. Zigic was in inspired form, putting in a shift as well as dominating the aerial battles and orchestrating City's push forward, and he went close after climbing above the
Burnley defence only to glance his header wide of the target from Beausejour's corner.
The Clarets struggled to make a mark on their opponents with former Claret Steven Caldwell applying a solid and commanding defensive wall. The only occasion the Clarets had success with a lofted ball forward saw Jay Rodriguez cushion the ball down for Sam Vokes who pulled his effort well wide of Boaz Myhill's goal.
Brum should have doubled their advantage as the interval approached but Marlon King's glaring miss denied the hosts that comfort. It was Zigic who robbed David Edgar of possession and, after drawing Grant, he unselfishly squared the ball to his strike partner who somehow slipped the ball wide of the post with an open net at his mercy.
City continued to press in the second half but Eddie Howe tightened the ship at the interval and the Clarets appeared more resolute for it. And their reward came, though against the run of play, within five minutes of the restart. Ross Wallace's set-piece was deflected for a corner and it was the former PNE winger who retrieved
a short pass from Keith Treacy and whipped in an enticing cross which was cleared as far as Marvin Bartley on the edge of the box and his venomous strike on the half-volley deflected in to the corner.
But that would be Burnley's final opportunity of note as they plugged the gaps in search of a point at St Andrews. Grant back-peddled to pull David Murphy's cross from under the bar while Keith Fahey rocketed a shot over the top from King's pass.
King went close again after working space inside the 18-yard box but his turn and shot was fired in to the arms of Grant. Then, with time ticking away and the home supporters growing more impatient, Zigic somehow managed to head substitute Nathan Redmond's teasing cross in to the turf and wide of the post.
But the hurtful blow came in the first minute of stoppage time and it was all too easy for Brum. Redmond released Murphy in to space and the full-back beat Bartley inside the area before cutting the ball back for Burke who had time and space to smash the ball in to the net from close range.
Now is the true test for Burnley's character. They face a tough trip to the KC Stadium to face an in-form Hull City side on Saturday on the back of four consecutive league defeats. How will they respond?