The Football League Paper - - CHAM­PI­ONSHIP - By John Mc­dougall

BIRM­ING­HAM man­ager Lee Clark be­lieves his side can push on next sea­son af­ter their vic­tory over Leeds se­cured their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus.

Hay­den Mullins’ close range sec­ond-half fin­ish set­tled a tight en­counter at St An­drews as the Blues clinched back-to-back league wins.

De­spite ad­mit­ting frus­tra­tion at the early stages of their campaign, Clark was de­lighted with both the win and per­for­mance that lifts his side to tenth in the ta­ble.

“It gives me a lot of prom­ise go­ing into next sea­son,” he said.“The young play­ers have given me a huge boost.

“The frus­trat­ing thing for me is if we hadn’t messed about in the early part of the sea­son, it might have taken us into the play-off po­si­tions.

“It is a ter­rific win as it was a very tough game. Brian [McDer­mott] has come in and done a bril­liant job – the only job I ex­pect of him as he’s a top man­ager.

“I said to my play­ers if we give our­selves a good po­si­tion and stand­point in the game, if it’s still 0-0 af­ter an hour, we’ve got lots of match-win­ners both on the field and on the bench.

“We’ve got good fitness lev­els so it gives us an op­por­tu­nity to go and win.

“We played re­ally well in the first-half. We passed the ball around and passed it with a pur­pose, we created opportunities and I was re­ally pleased.

“Ravel Mor­ri­son and Nathan Red­mond were threat­en­ing all af­ter­noon and have been like that for weeks.

“Just af­ter half-time, Leeds started dom­i­nat­ing the pos­ses­sion a lit­tle bit and we got a bit sloppy, but we got the goal and kicked on from there.”

Ex-Manch­ester United trainee Mor­ri­son nearly opened the scor­ing with a 12th minute shot that Paddy Kenny tipped onto his cross- bar. Shane Fer­gu­son could have given the Blues a 16thminute lead but fired a 30-yard shot just wide of goal.

Jack But­land de­nied Michael Tonge af­ter get­ting his fin­ger­tips to a minute curl­ing ef­fort from the edge of the box shortly af­ter­wards as they side’s went into the break goal­less.

Ross McCor­mack went close on 54 min­utes when he poked a shot from in­side the area just wide.

But Mullins broke the dead­lock on 71 min­utes af­ter he poked home Kenny’s parry from Red­mond’s pow­er­ful shot on his 550th ca­reer league ap­pear­ance.

Leeds nearly struck back through Rodolph Austin’s 75th-minute curl­ing shot but But­land’s stretch­ing save kept the York­shire side at bay and se­cured the three points for the hosts.

De­spite the loss, Leeds man­ager Brian McDer­mott was re­lieved the Whites’ Cham­pi­onship sta­tus is also se­cure and chal­lenged the club to build next sea­son.

“I have no dis­ap­point­ments what­so­ever, we are in this league and have done what we had to do,” he said.“We should have got some­thing out of the game. I felt when it was 0-0, we were on top and they scored the goal from noth­ing.

“The play­ers have given me ev­ery­thing. You’re not happy when you don’t win a game but when you look at where we could have been, it gives us that op­por­tu­nity to build. I’ve got mas­sive op­ti­mism for next sea­son. There has to be no gos­sip­ing or moan­ing, we all have to be pulling in the same di­rec­tion.

“The most im­por­tant thing for me was to make sure Leeds stay in this divi­sion and put my rep­u­ta­tion on the line.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

MILE­STONE: Hay­den Mullins cel­e­brates his strike with team­mates

DE­CIDER: Birm­ing­ham's Hay­den Mullins scores to make it 1-0

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