Bradford City 1, Birmingham City 3 - Beware the Ides of March. And in City's case, that's Rotherham not Rome.

Suddenly the weekend trip a couple of stops down the M1 has become a cup final.

One point behind from one game more, Rotherham are waiting to pounce - and sinking City are in their sights.

As their miserable March stretched to four successive losses last night, the Bantams braced themselves to be put through the mill at Millmoor. And it's fair to say a repeat of that

4-0 Worthington Cup cakewalk many months ago is totally out the window.

The daunting task at the weekend was top of the agenda when Nicky Law addressed the crest-fallen dressing room after Birmingham had become the TENTH visitors to leave Valley Parade with three points.

And he warned them: "If you think the first half was difficult, then wait for Saturday. I've been there as a player and manager already and Rotherham's not a nice place to go.

"They aren't the greatest team on earth and I think Ronnie Moore will admit that. But he's got 11 lads who give it their best shot and really have a go and if we're not up for it then we're going to be in trouble.

"If the players aren't going to relish the battle they'd better tell me before the weekend because Saturday will find them out. We have got to be up for it."

With each defeat, the trapdoor to Division Two oblivion edges that little bit nearer. Half a dozen points will probably prove enough to keep out of reach - but we've been saying that now for a fortnight.

And once you slip below the likes of Rotherham, you know it's big trouble.

This is the perfect time to play City. Injuries have scythed the squad to miniscule proportions, confidence has drained, results are free-falling - Birmingham couldn't believe their luck.

The contrast between the two benches said it all. While the visitors could call upon the likes of Geoff Horsfield (and doesn't it seem ridiculous the Bantams were once linked with the £2m-rated targetman) and Stan Lazaridis, the home side could only scrabble five subs together by tossing in Andy Lee - a kid just back from a month's loan at Emley.

Three of Law's starting line-up were playing out of position while Mark Bower was given his first league start, having previously made the first 11 only once this season against mighty Macclesfield. What everyone dreaded was an early Birmingham goal - and that's exactly what happened.

By the fourth minute they had already won three corners and from a fourth they scored. Tommy Mooney slipped free to flick on the corner and Darren Purse was on hand a couple of yards out to wham the loose ball past Alan Combe. One down and City had barely got out their half.

Birmingham goalkeeper Nico Vaesen couldn't have wished for a quieter start to his first game since November - he could have nipped off to watch Eastenders for the first 20 minutes.

In that time he was only threatened once as Danny Cadamarteri swivelled to dink a ten-yarder narrowly wide after a positive run by Claus Jorgensen, who looked far more secure going forward than defending in his emergency right-back role.

Vaesen must have been feeling the icy wind as much as the punters with the ball taking residence up the far end. But he warmed his hands in the 27th minute with an alert save to his right to keep out Eoin Jess.

That block looked more crucial within four minutes as Birmingham's pressure forced a second goal. Bryan Hughes threatened to do it all on his own, cutting this way and that before his shot was parried by Combe.

City's defence stood and watched as the ball pinged into the air but Stern John had other ideas and the Trinidad international turned it home with an acrobatic overhead kick.

The boos were swirling around the stadium as much as the wintry weather and the general mood did not improve with the departure of the limping Gareth Whalley, whose latest injury is a thigh strain.

But City got a break just before the break with a goal that owed much to Birmingham's bumbling defending.

A home corner broke down but Purse hit the clearance against the back of a team-mate and the ball looped back into the danger zone. Stuart McCall nipped round the back to chip it across, Jamie Lawrence had an effort blocked by Martin Grainger and the ball rebounded to Jess who fired his 13th goal of the season.

It flattered City - and spared them another jeering from the fans at half-time.

"We went in with a glimmer of hope we didn't really deserve," admitted Law. "In the first half we didn't pass the ball well, didn't compete, made all the wrong decisions and gifted them both their goals."

Apart from that then, things were going fine. But what a contrast when the sides returned. Suddenly it was the Bantams asking the questions and Birmingham unable to get past halfway, content to thump the ball upfield and relieve the pressure for a few seconds.

With McCall at the hub of operations and Lee Sharpe and Juanjo supplying some width, City poured forward in droves. Birmingham's threat had totally evaporated.

But with the amount of possession they were now enjoying, the home side had to find another goal - and they didn't. For all the frenzied approach work and cavalry charges, clear-cut chances were at a premium.

Cadamarteri got in some good positions but let himself down with his first touch at times while the packed defence always seemed to get something in the way to prevent a clean shot at Vaesen.

And eight minutes from time, their fourth March defeat was sealed after a terrible blunder by Jacobs.

Trying to steer the ball back to Combe, the left back got in a tangle and the pass dribbled into no man's land where Horsfield accepted it gratefully and clipped a shot inside City's right-hand post.

Jacobs immediately held up his hand to his manager but the damage was done - although however big the mistake, it surely did not warrant the abuse dished out to the club's longest-serving player every time he touched the ball from then on.

Thankfully Valley Parade's surface can now breathe easy for a week and a half until Crewe's visit on the 23rd. The same cannot be said for City, who put their bodies on the line twice before then, starting with that critical date in south Yorkshire.