JACQUES IN THE BOX SEALS BLUES VICTORY
GARY Rowett hailed Birmingham’s determination and discipline as they ended a gruelling run of seven games in 21 days with a textbook away win at Leeds.
Demarai Gray, with his first goal of the season, sent Rowett’s men in ahead at half-time, and they put in an accomplished display after the break to defend their advantage.
And to make it a perfect day for Rowett, Jacques Maghoma came off the bench to seal the victory in stoppage time.
“I thought it was a textbook away performance,” Rowett reflected as the Blues made it two away wins on the bounce following their midweek victory at Brentford.
“I think the odds were stacked against us somewhat.
“But once again, for the players to show so much resolve, determination, and fantastic control in the way that they kept their shape was brilliant.”
Neither side created any clear openings in the first half hour, but the Blues had shown a willingness to take a direct approach by looking to release Clayton Donaldson with balls over the top of the Leeds defence.
Donaldson looked the favourite to reach one such ball from Stephen Gleeson until Liam Cooper appeared on the cover.
But the centre-back’s clearance only made it as far as Gray, who turned towards goal to fire the ball high into the net.
“I said to Demarai, ‘If you get an opportunity, just go for power on target. Make the keeper save it’,” Rowett said. “But he’s been brilliant.
“He was really, really tired towards the end with the fact that he’s played so many games for a young player in such a short space of time, and worked so hard for the team.
“But I thought he was excellent again.”
Gray went close to doubling his tally three minutes before the break, getting the better of Sol Bamba to draw a low stop from Marco Silvestri who just about managed to turn the ball away.
But Silvestri’s save was bettered at the other end by Tomasz Kuszczak in the dying embers of the half, the former Manchester United keeper producing a superb save to keep a bending effort from Stuart Dallas out of the top corner when it looked to all intents and purposes a fantastic finish.
The hosts began to pile on the pressure as the second half wore on, winning a succession of corners as Uwe Rosler sent on Jordan Botaka and Mirco Antenucci in pursuit of an equaliser.
But in all truth the visitors rarely looked in danger of losing their advantage and had their own opportunities to extend their lead.
Antenucci briefly threatened to capitalise on an uncharacteristical- ly slick Leeds build-up in the 90th minute until Gleeson appeared to take the ball off his toes.
And moments later Maghoma put the icing on the cake for the travelling support, who are yet to see their side lose on the road this season, driving the ball past Silvestri from inside the box on the counter.
Leeds boss Rosler insisted he does not feel under pressure despite his ongoing search for a first home win since taking charge.
But he hinted that changes may be made to the match day squad after yet another laboured display at Elland Road.
“The only pressure I feel is my own pressure to win games of football,” Rosler said after the game, with Leeds having picked up only three points from their opening five games at home in the Championship so far this season.
“At the moment we can’t break teams down when they sit very deep.
“We want to play a passing game with the ball on the ground, but in the future maybe we need to simplify, and sacrifice those ideas to get some points on the table.
“We have to show qualities on the pitch at Elland Road which are not only about playing nice football.
“We need to be ruthless, to show a nasty streak at times, and we all have to realise that.
“It looks like the shirt is heavy for some players.
“Our job is to help them through that, but also to make the necessary changes.”
PINPOINT: Birmingham’s Jacques Maghoma scores in added time