form but striker is red-hot Hosts on

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alex Law­son

BIRM­ING­HAM City put in their best per­for­mance of the sea­son to date, ac­cord­ing to man­ager Gian­franco Zola, but it wasn’t enough to pre­vent de­feat at the hands of Leeds.

The Blues had 61 per cent pos­ses­sion and 27 shots, of which only six were on tar­get, in the game but two Chris Wood goals saw Leeds steal the three points.

Wood lobbed To­masz Kuszczak to put play-off chas­ing Leeds ahead af­ter just 14 min­utes be­fore Craig Gard­ner lev­elled with a 20-yard left foot strike just af­ter the hour.

It was Gard­ner’s first goal since re­turn­ing to the Blues but his side weren’t level for long as Wood tapped home Kalvin Phillips’ cut back.

Al­fonso Pe­draza wrapped up the points with an 81st-minute strike but Zola was pleased to see his side match Leeds for much of the game.

“I think the fans seemed as though they en­joyed it, they ap­pre­ci­ated the fight the play­ers put on the pitch,” he said.

“They ap­pre­ci­ate, I be­lieve, the foot­ball the play­ers did. Ob­vi­ously I un­der­stand that no­body ap­pre­ci­ated the re­sult.

“But we were play­ing against a team that is third in the league and that dif­fer­ence didn’t show.

“But on the other hand I am go­ing to be telling them ‘well done’ be­cause I think we put on the pitch the best per­for­mance of the sea­son.

“That is a fact – as is a fact ob­vi­ously we made mis­takes. But when you play a high in­ten­sity game as we did it can hap­pen that you make some mis­takes.

“If the mis­take hap­pens and the ball goes to some­body like Wood – es­pe­cially when he is like he is – then you are pun­ished very heav­ily.

“If we keep play­ing like this we are go­ing to be telling an­other story.”

Wood, a for­mer Blues loa­nee, has now scored 25 goals for Garry Monk’s men as they ce­mented their place in­side the play-off places de­spite not earn­ing a sin­gle cor­ner in the game.

The vis­i­tors scored with three of their six shots on tar­get and Monk was de­lighted to see his side cope un­der the pres­sure of an im­pres­sive Birm­ing­ham per­for­mance.

“I know Birm­ing­ham are where they are in the league and they’ve had a dif­fi­cult run but I thought they were ex­cel­lent in the first 60 min­utes,” Monk said.

“But our men­tal­ity is so strong, to fight and de­fend in that pres­sure.

“We suf­fered too much pres­sure which is dis­ap­point­ing but in the last half-hour we were ex­cel­lent.

“That was the real us and that’s what we’ve been do­ing and how we try to play.

“We looked dan­ger­ous and in the end we won the game com­fort­ably but it wasn’t down to a lack of per­for­mance from Birm­ing­ham. They’ll feel a bit ag­grieved.

“Be­cause of the stan­dards we set we feel a bit dis­ap­pointed but we’re so strong men­tally. When we have set-backs we come back strong.

“They equalised and we came straight back at them. That’s the sign of a good team.

“I’m very pleased with the points and the sub­sti­tutes had a good im­pact.

“The spirit is clearly there. We’ve got a very strong win­ning men­tal­ity.

“It was only three points and no one has achieved any­thing. No one is guar­an­teed any­thing at the present time.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

BACK IN FRONT: Chris Wood cel­e­brates scor­ing his sec­ond goal

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