Zola’s off the mark with Blues

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ricky Charlesworth

GIAN­FRANCO Zola ad­mit­ted to be­ing able to breathe a sigh of re­lief af­ter claim­ing his first point as Birm­ing­ham boss.

Zola’s Blues res­cued a draw af­ter com­ing from 2-0 down away at ten-man Barns­ley.

Tom Brad­shaw and Sam Winnall put the hosts ahead but Jac­ques Maghoma pulled one back be­fore the break.

The turn­ing point ar­rived shortly af­ter the re-start when Marc Roberts was sent off and con­ceded a penalty which Lukas Jutkiewicz scored to seal the point.

“I’m pleased to get the first point and it is a bit of a re­lief,” beamed the Ital­ian, who had lost his open­ing two games in charge.

“It was an en­cour­ag­ing dis­play. I was a lit­tle wor­ried at 2-0 and their first goal came as a sur­prise.

“The sec­ond was a set-piece which is some­thing we need to work on.

“But the re­ac­tion was good and the goal from Maghoma was very im­por­tant for us.”

Zola also re­served spe­cial praise for striker Che Adams, who won the penalty which led to the equaliser.

He added: “It was a penalty to be fair as Che was go­ing to the goal and the red card was cor­rect.

“Che was game-chang­ing out there. As soon as I came to the club, I knew he was a player with big po­ten­tial.”

Prior to the game, both sides took part in a minute’s ap­plause in mem­ory of Barns­ley leg­end Nor­man Rim­ming­ton, who died on De­cem­ber 29 aged 93 af­ter serv­ing the club for most of his life.

The open­ing quar­ter of the game was a non-event but it soon sprung into life when Brad­shaw net­ted his fourth of the term af­ter an ex­cel­lent surge for­ward by Mar­ley Watkins.

Winnall then made it 2-0 four min­utes later when he nod­ded in his 11th of the sea­son just a few yards out fol­low­ing a Conor Houri­hane cor­ner.

Against the run of play the Blues pulled a goal back through Maghoma on 33 min­utes.

Adams pestered Roberts into los­ing pos­ses­sion and he threaded the ball through to Maghoma who com­fort­ably nes­tled the ball past Adam Davies.

Zola made two changes at the break and one of them, Jutkiewicz, played a huge role in restor­ing par­ity.

He picked out Adams in the box only for Roberts to clum­sily bun­dle him over in­side the penalty area.

And, af­ter be­ing at fault for Birm­ing­ham’s first goal, Roberts’ day got worse when he was shown a straight red card and a penalty was awarded.

Su­per sub Jutkiewicz duly stepped up and smashed the ball straight down the mid­dle of the goal to make it 2-2.

Barns­ley boss Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom said: “We gave them a goal and a way back into it but say­ing that, I was pleased with lots of things.

“Our en­ergy off the ball was good and we pressed them.

“But I didn’t think we were good enough with the ball and missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to dom­i­nate at times.

“The send­ing-off changed things but we were ter­rific with ten men and ar­guably cre­ated the bet­ter chances.

“The red card was a red card it’s the rule.

“The rule is if it’s not a gen­uine at­tempt to win the ball, it’s go­ing to be a red card and we have to ac­cept that.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

SPOT ON: Lukas Jutkiewicz scores Birm­ing­ham’s equal­is­ing goal from to snatch a point

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