TWO managers, two clubs suffering from different fortunes, two strikers told the tale.

But while Steve Bruce and Birmingham City were suffering with Emile Heskey at his weak and woeful worst, Steve McClaren and Middlesbrough had Mark Viduka.

And that proved the difference at a nervy Riverside.

Perhaps it was no surprise that Boro's Australian international's 44th minute finish was his fifth goal against The Blues in four outings.

It was equally no shock that the home strikeforce, Yakubu and Viduka, had more about them than the visitors, who started with one up front and ended it with three.

Add the absent with cold Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink to the equation and the trio have netted three more Premiership goals between them than the entire Birmingham side.

Heskey carries all the punch and power of a soft toy and crumbled in front of goal when presented with a glorious chance.

With no width in the side, Boro struggled to create and it was a piece of Viduka individual flair that proved decisive.

Back to goal on the edge of the area, he turned the hapless Alex Bruce, and homed in on Maik Taylor.

With the keeper anticipating a shot, Viduka had the belief and temerity to wait for the keeper to go down before finishing with aplomb.

Last time Viduka made an impression at the Riverside was in the car park as he exchanged verbals with fans following the 4-0 Aston Villa humiliation.

This time, he didn't hang around after the game for the plaudits, a quick change and a swift departure were high on his agenda.

"I don't think he's ever fallen out with the fans,'' insisted McClaren. "He came on at West Brom for the last 20 minutes and got a fantastic reception and again this time as he came off.

"Strikers are always favourites, especially when they score.''

Viduka's day didn't get off to the most promising start. All of 19 seconds had passed when his attempt to spread play ended in him finding the touchline.

He had the chance to score when Yakubu's deft pass inside Mario Melchiot found the advancing Emanual Pogatetz.

On one of the few occasions Boro's wing backs did advance and deliver, his low ball was heading for Viduka before he lost his footing.

Then came Heskey's coup de grace. All of seven yards out with the goal at his mercy, he steered his free header pitifully wide.

Strange how he's not mentioned in England circles any more.

Viduka, on the other hand, will be plying his trade in Germany this summer.

As he hinted last week, it may be a chance for him to showcase his talents with his long-term Riverside future undecided.

For 44 minutes and 40 seconds, he hadn't looked like scoring.

Heskey hasn't looked like scoring in 44 games - Sunderland excepted - perhaps there lies the reason why.

Bruce admitted after Saturday's game: "In the Premiership you only get three or four chances to score a goal and the cold fact is we didn't take ours, whereas they had two opportunities and scored with one."

It was a statement McClaren didn't even try to counter.