LUKAS IS BOTH HERO AND VILLAIN
IF LUKAS Jutkiewicz had taken either of two late chances, Gianfranco Zola’s controversial reign at Birmingham City would be off and running with a win but the striker at least earned him a replay.
A month ago Blues were thrashed 4-0 at Newcastle in the Championship, a defeat that sealed Gary Rowett’s shock sacking and brought the surprise arrival of Zola.
Zola has faced nothing but criticism with only one point from four games. He was booed off with angry fans chanting Rowett’s name at the end of last week’s dismal 3-1 home defeat by Brentford.
But the Italian’s head was high this time with fans belting out the club anthem “Keep Right On” as Blues recovered from going an early goal behind and getting close to knocking Newcastle out of the FA Cup.
It was Jutkiewicz who got the 44thminute equaliser after Daryl Murphy put Newcastle in front in the fifth minute with his first goal since his £3.5million move from Ipswich in August.
The Magpies were second best for the rest of the tie but were let off the hook by Jutkiewicz. Seven minutes from time he headed a cross from substitute Josh Dacres-Cogley wide and then did the same with David Davis’ cross four minutes later.
Zola said: “When Newcastle scored you could see my players were nervous. So was I. Four games without a win drains confidence.
“We didn’t clear the corner because of nervousness and they scored. But after that it was the best the team has played for me. We deserved to win.”
The 4,671 travelling Newcastle fans certainly enjoyed Murphy scoring from close range following chaos caused by Achraf Lazaar’s corner, but you could feel the apprehension in the rest of St Andrew’s. Two successive home defeats and the doubt surrounding Zola’s appointment has depressed the place, but out of adversity Birmingham began to stitch together football that had Newcastle on the back foot.
By half-time Birmingham were on top and deserving the equaliser Jutkiewicz side-footed in from Jonathan Grounds’ excellent cross.
Jutkiewicz was inherited by Zola from Rowett, the striker being signed on-loan and the deal being made permanent by Zola for £1m from Burnley last week.
Zola has £9m more to spend, with West Brom’s Gary Gardner and Rene Krhin of Granada to try and clinch today.
The loss of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic with a cut leg suffered in the melee around Murphy’s goal affected Newcastle and boss Rafa Benitez agreed: “Mitrovic’s injury changed things for us.
“Birmingham were a good team before and they are a good team under Gianfranco too.
“Newcastle’s history is proud in the FA Cup and the Cup is massive for me. I won it with Liverpool. But I don’t want to lie to our fans, we will try and get through with our squad, using players who are not used too much.” BIRMINGHAM: (4-3-3) Legzdins 6, Spector 7 (Dacres-Cogley 44 7), Shotton 6, Robinson 6, Grounds 6, Davis 7, Gleeson 6, Kieftenbeld 6, Fabbrini 6 (Stewart 79 5),Jutkiewicz 8, Adam 6 Subs not used: Kuszczak, Tesche, Cotterill,Brown, Morrison NEWCASTLE: (4-4-2) Sels 6, Yedlin 6,Lascelles 6, Hanley 6, Haidara 5 (Ritchie 70 5) Lazaar 6, Tiote 5 (Hayden 65 5), Colback 5, Anita 5,Mitrovic 3 (Gouffran 10 7), Murphy 6 Subs not used: Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Gayle
LEVELLER: Birmingham’s Lukas Jutkiewicz enjoys his equaliser STAR MAN LUKAS JUTKIEWICZ Birmingham