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23 January 2016

Town had chances but superb strike from Toral inspires home win

Town matched Birmingham for chances but the home side took their opportunities to jump above Blues in the table. 

Daryl Murphy and Freddie Sears both went close for Mick McCarthy’s side before Will Buckley put the hosts ahead midway through the first-half.

Town were reduced to 10 men when Jonathan Douglas was judged to have caught Buckley with studs showing just before half-time and early in the second-half, Gary Rowett’s side extended their lead with a superb goal from Jon Toral. 

Maikel Kieftenbeld made it three on 70 minutes and though Blues continued to cause the home defence problems, chances came and went to leave Town a point outside the Play-Offs.

Town returned to the same side that lined up in successive games against Leeds and Preston before the FA Cup replay defeat at Portsmouth, with new signing Kevin Foley included amongst the substitutes.

Buckley dragged his shot wide from the edge of the box in the first few minutes after Kieftenbeld found the wideman with a slick pass, then Stephen Gleeson was similarly off target from the same distance. 

Daryl Murphy headed over from Kevin Bru’s excellent cross in what was a good chance for Town as the game opened up from the first whistle.

Tomasz Kuszczak held firm from Murphy’s cross after the Republic of Ireland international had worked his way around the back of the Birmingham defence following a silky touch from Bru.

Murphy and Bru linked up again, with Murphy volleying wide of the far post as Town continued to carry a threat going forward, Ryan Fraser then seeing a free-kick cleared by Jonathan Grounds. 

Dean Gerken produced an excellent save to keep out Toral’s drive, his counterpart at the other end, Kuszczak, quick off his line to pluck Fraser’s cross out of the air.

The former Manchester United ‘keeper had to be alert again to keep out Freddie Sears’ glancing header from Fraser’s cross but on 23 minutes his team were ahead, Gerken produced a fantastic save from Clayton Donaldson but Buckley was on hand to put away the rebound.

Donaldson’s strength and Buckley’s touch set up Kieftenbeld whose shot was deflected wide for a corner, Buckley denied at the back post by Jonas Knudsen from the flag kick. 

Kuszczak kept out Fraser’s effort and then did the same to Sears who exploded a right footer from the rebound as Blues continued to pose a danger going forward. 

Christophe Berra got on the end of Bru’s corner but Kuszczak was in the right place again, Murphy doing well to get on the end of Fraser’s cross but his header went wide as Town went into the break not only a goal down but a player down after Douglas was shown a red card for a foul on Buckley on the half-time whistle.

Luke Hyam replaced Bru at the break, Cole Skuse getting the second-half underway with a 30 yarder at Kuszczak.

Birmingham extended their lead on 54 minutes in sensational style, Donaldson won the header and Toral showed great technique to volley past Gerken from 20 yards. 

Sears forced a corner after working his way into the box, then another down the other flank as Town looked for a way back into the game.

That lifeline almost came just past the hour, Murphy released Fraser down the left and he was inches wide with a left foot strike across goal.

Fraser sent another effort over the bar as Blues continued to carve out chances, Sears blazing over then Tommy Smith denied after a jinking run.

Birmingham sealed the win though on 70 minutes, David Davis found Buckley with a clever pass, the ball cannoned back off his heel and fell for Kieftenbeld to volley past Gerken into the far corner. 

Fraser was denied again, Kuszczak ending a goalmouth scramble with another save then Blues looked to be denied a penalty when Grounds caught Fraser with a high boot as Town’s misfortune remained until the final whistle.   

Birmingham: Kuszczak, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Gleeson, Kieftenbeld (Solomon-Otabor 71), Davis (Adams 90), Buckley (Vaughan 78), Toral, Donaldson. Subs not used: Legzdins, Spector, Lowry, Brock-Madsen. Booked: Gleeson, Robinson. 

Town: Gerken, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Douglas, Bru (Hyam 46), Fraser, Sears (Pitman 77), Murphy (Varney 77). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Digby, Foley, Maitland-Niles. Sent-off: Douglas. Booked: Smith.
Att: 18,272



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