GRAY ON HIS WAY AS BLUES SHADE IT

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ed Higgs

GARY Rowett be­lieves his Birm­ing­ham side showed there is life af­ter De­marai Gray by beat­ing Brent­ford.

With the winger in talks with Le­ices­ter City due to his release clause be­ing met, Maikel Kieften­beld scored a late win­ner for Blues, af­ter Phillip Hof­mann’s tap-in fol­low­ing a To­masz Kuszczak er­ror looked to have can­celled out Jac­ques Maghoma’s opener.

Rowett de­clared him­self de­lighted with his squad’s con­tri­bu­tion af­ter a sec­ond home win in five days.

“A club has met that amount and De­marai’s asked to speak to them,” Rowett con­firmed af­ter the game.

“Un­der those cir­cum­stances I don’t think it’s right to keep a player, but it’s out of our hands and, should it go through, I wish him all the best.

“I think we’ve showed with­out him in the last two games we’ve got play­ers who can fill in.

“We’ve talked about de­sire and ef­fort but our first goal was good foot­ball, a lovely pass and a great fin­ish, and it shows how much Jac­ques’ stand­ing in our team has in­creased.

“We died a lit­tle bit but we showed a lot of re­solve to get the win­ner.”

The news about Gray – which emerged an hour be­fore kick-off – seemed to af­fect the mood around the ground dur­ing a so­porific first half.

The home side should have cre­ated the first op­por­tu­nity of the match on eight min­utes, when Jon Toral latched onto a loose ball from Jake Bid­well, but the for­mer Bees man failed to find a team-mate in the box.

Kieften­beld was booked early on af­ter tak­ing down John Swift from be­hind on the edge of the area, but the sub­se­quent bizarre free-kick rou­tine – fea­tur­ing two at­tack­ing walls in front of a de­fen­sive wall – sailed wide.

The only real chance of the first half came on 40 min­utes, with Toral’s back­post header go­ing nar­rowly wide, be­fore his late tackle on Bid­well caused a flurry of con­tro­versy, re­ceiv­ing a yel­low when many thought it should have been red.

The home side went ahead ten min­utes af­ter half-time when Maghoma fol­lowed up his win­ner against MK Dons by fir­ing low past David But­ton from close range af­ter a lovely through ball from the in­flu­en­tial Toral.

That did at least spark the Bees into ac­tion, and they had a golden op­por­tu­nity to equalise when a through ball from Toumani Di­agouraga caught Paul Robin­son square, only for Alan Judge to fire the chance over.

The Bees were level 13 min­utes from time when Kuszczak spilled a lon­grange shot from Judge straight into the path of sub­sti­tute Hof­mann.

The striker could have grabbed his sec­ond min­utes later, but volleyed a tricky right-wing cross over the bar.

And Kieften­beld won it in the 89th minute af­ter James Vaughan latched onto a through ball and fired low across goal for the mid­fielder to record his first Birm­ing­ham goal.

Brent­ford man­ager Dean Smith felt his side were bit­terly un­lucky to con­cede late on, hav­ing spurned a few chances be­fore Kieften­beld’s win­ner.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing be­cause I felt we were the bet­ter team and it’s a com­pli­ment to us how deep Birm­ing­ham played.

“I think they felt if it was an open game we’d have opened them up and scored a few goals.

“The counter-at­tack is al­ways a dan­ger, but then we got back into it and re­grouped, and we were the only team try­ing to win it from there and we got done at the end.

“I thought when we equalised Birm­ing­ham wanted to set­tle for a point but that’s not our way, we wanted to win the game.”

PIC­TURES: Pro Sport

ON THE TURN: Jac­ques Maghoma leads an at­tack for Birm­ing­ham. Inset, Blues mid­fielder Maikel Kieften­beld cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ner

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