Monk takes the fight to fi­nal day

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alex Bowmer

BIRM­ING­HAM boss Garry Monk felt his side were gripped by fear af­ter they failed to se­cure their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus for next sea­son.

The Blues took the lead on 29 min­utes through Che Adams, but the R’s pulled level through Bright Osayi-Sa­muel’s first goal for the club.

In the sec­ond half Birm­ing­ham failed to cap­i­talise on a suc­ces­sion of chances around the hour mark be­fore re­ceiv­ing ham­mer blows from Ilias Chair and an in­jury-time ef­fort from Matt Smith.

The West Mid­lands out­fit may now need to get a re­sult against Ful­ham to avoid slip­ping into the third tier.

“We played with a lit­tle bit of fear of the sit­u­a­tion and I haven’t seen that from the games be­fore,” Monk ad­mit­ted.

“In the games be­fore, we’d been meet­ing this chal­lenge head on, putting our max­i­mum onto the pitch and get­ting re­sults.

“We knew com­ing here we had the op­por­tu­nity to se­cure our sur­vival.”

The vis­i­tors came up against a side who only had pride to play for, but nei­ther side came out of the traps quickly.

The opener came fol­low­ing good work from Jota, who had blazed over mo­ments ear­lier.

The Spaniard drifted in­side, slot­ting the ball down the left­hand chan­nel for Jac­ques Maghoma.

The Con­golese winger flashed a dan­ger­ous ball across the box and Adams was on hand to fin­ish past QPR keeper Joe Lumley.

Birm­ing­ham’s re­vival un­der Monk must have given the trav­el­ling faith­ful hope they could ex­tend their ad­van­tage, but no sooner had they trot­ted back to the cen­tre cir­cle than the hosts were level.

The lively Luke Free­man charged down the right flank, hoist­ing over a de­liv­ery that Ryan Man­ning touched in­side for Osayi-Sa­muel to tuck into David Stock­dale’s left-hand cor­ner.

Free­man con­tin­ued to im­press af­ter the in­ter­val, with his fierce drive punched to safety by Stock­dale.

More magic from the for­mer Bris­tol City winger fol­lowed as he bam­boo­zled Wes Hard­ing and sent a ball to the back post for Chair to slam home 20 min­utes from time.

Ne­dum On­uoha and Jamie Mackie had just come on for their fi­nal games at Lof­tus Road and the lat­ter al­most made it a fairy­tale end­ing, with Stock­dale once again equal to the task.

Smith then made the game safe, sweep­ing home af­ter the ball broke in the box.

Monk was sur­prised that the team hadn’t cap­i­talised on the chances they en­joyed.

“Play­ing with fear means you play within your­self, you kind of hope your team-mates are go­ing to be the ones that can do some­thing,” he added.

Look­ing ahead to next week, Monk said the team’s fo­cus was on the game against Ful­ham.

He added: “We have to go through it next week and be ready for the next game to give our max­i­mum.”

Ian Hol­loway heaped praise on his play­ers and was op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture.

“It was a fan­tas­tic per­for­mance. We let a goal in and it could have wob­bled ev­ery­body. We got stronger, we scored a re­ally good goal,” he said.

“I needed to put a few se­nior play­ers on to set­tle us down, but ev­ery one of them’s been a credit to the badge and I want to thank them for that.”

PIC­TURES: PSI/Andy Wal­ter

HAM­MER BLOW: Ilias Chair cel­e­brates his goal for QPR, in­set


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