TIGERS TAMED AS TORAL TRIUMPHS
Hull see title tilt dented by Blues
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.”
JON THE DON: Birmingham’s Jon Toral scores the winner to down Hull
STAR MAN JON TORAL Birmin