TIGERS TAMED AS TO­RAL TRI­UMPHS

Hull see ti­tle tilt dented by Blues

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ben Baker

STEVE Bruce en­dured an un­happy re­turn to St An­drew’s on Thurs­day night but the good news for the Hull boss is that Birm­ing­ham could yet swing the pro­mo­tion race back in their favour.

An early Jon To­ral de­flected ef­fort was enough to see Birm­ing­ham dent Hull’s ti­tle hopes as the play-off chas­ing Blues made it back-to-back 1-0 wins on home soil.

Birm­ing­ham, where Bruce was man­ager be­tween 2001 and 2007, have now won six of their last seven home league games, with only de­feat to Sh­effield Wed­nes­day last month spoil­ing the run.

And with high-fly­ing trio Mid­dles­brough, Brighton and Burn­ley all still to come to St An­drew’s, Blues boss Gary Rowett is eye­ing up some more scalps to aid his own side’s pro­mo­tion cre­den­tials.

“We think we can beat any­body here,” he said. “We’ve shown that all sea­son. Against the big teams our record is fan­tas­tic and we seem to raise our game against the big­ger sides.

“As I’ve said be­fore, we’re mak­ing re­ally good progress and head­ing in the right di­rec­tion and we’re putting in some big per­for­mances that seem to be keep­ing us in the mix.

“I turned up for the Hull game think­ing if we were to lose, then maybe that’s our chances gone.

“But you end up win­ning and you’re very much still in it, so that’s why you can never doubt your team’s abil­ity to bounce back.”

In an en­ter­tain­ing first half Hull could have struck first blood but right-back Moses Odubajo fired over the bar at the back post.

And the vis­i­tors were made to pay when To­ral tried his luck from out­side the box and his 14thminute ef­fort found the bot­tom right-hand cor­ner, via Cur­tis Davies.

Hull pressed for an equaliser but could only find the wood­work, Jake Liver­more can­non­ing a shot against the post be­fore a Michael Daw­son header hit the bar.

But it was far from one-way traf­fic with Al­lan McGre­gor su­perbly deny­ing Clay­ton Don­ald­son a goal from an over­head kick, while To­ral missed the chance to dou­ble his and Birm­ing­ham’s tally when he headed a David Cot­ter­ill cross just wide.

When Hull did find the tar­get af­ter the break they also found To­masz Kuszczak in in­spired firm as the Blues goal­keeper made a great dou­ble save late on to first deny a rasp­ing drive from Robert Sn­od­grass be­fore keep­ing out Sam Clu­cas’ fol­low up.

It just wasn’t Hull’s day as Birm­ing­ham held on for the win, but cap­tain Daw­son is not hit­ting the panic but­ton any time soon.

“I thought it was a sim­i­lar per­for­mance to what we have pro­duced in re­cent weeks, ex­cept this time we con­ceded a goal,” said Daw­son.

“That gave Birm­ing­ham the chance to get ev­ery­body back be­hind the ball and they did that be­cause they had some­thing to de­fend.

“There was cer­tainly no ques­tion­ing the com­mit­ment from us and we cre­ated enough chances to win two or three games.

“Over­all it was a dis­ap­point­ing night, but we can’t dwell on the re­sult.

“We’ll pick our­selves up from the re­sult at Birm­ing­ham and get ready to go again.

“There are still plenty of games to be played and plenty of points to play for. There will be ups and downs along the way, as we’ve seen with re­sults else­where.

“We’ve got a big FA Cup game against Arse­nal to look for­ward to now and we’ll see where we are when we come back to play­ing in the league.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

JON THE DON: Birm­ing­ham’s Jon To­ral scores the win­ner to down Hull

STAR MAN JON TO­RAL Birmin

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