Birmingham 1-0 Cardiff Six Things: strong start to Cotterill’s reign

Adams nets the winner –

A committed, organized display saw Birmingham City beat league leaders Cardiff City 1-0 on Friday night thanks to Che Adams’ first half strike. Here’s six things from the match.

Birmingham’s reaction

We knew from the outset that there would be no repeat of Birmingham’s performance before the international break, which saw them lose 6-1 at Hull. Left-back Jonathan Grounds stopped Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from making his usual bursts down the right while Junior Hoilett found no space in central areas, meaning little support for striker Kenneth Zahore. Cheikh N’Doye imposed his physicality high up the pitch and behind him, Maikel Kieftenbeld and David Davis played Craig Bryson and Joe Ralls at their own game. The Cardiff duo, along with Sol Bamba in the sitting role, naturally like to get early balls forward, so when they were asked to be more selective with their passing, they weren’t comfortable.

Vassell and Adams

Marc Roberts was outstanding at centre-back and he played one or two balls over the top for Isaac Vassell, cousin of ex-Villa and Leicester striker Darius, in the first five minutes. The ex-Luton striker excelled at getting his side up the pitch and winning free-kicks, always causing problems for Bruno Manga with his pace and tenacity, the centre-back bailed out by partner Sean Morrison’s block on three minutes. Birmingham’s first moment of final third quality came on 19 minutes when, with right-back Lee Peltier caught out, Che Adams cut inside from the left before hammering a wonderful effort past Neil Etheridge.

Morrison’s moments

The hosts looked comfortable for much of the game, but either side of the interval, they required last-ditch defending, most notably from the outstanding Michael Morrison. One Maxime Colin slip on 43 minutes allowed Zahore a rare breakaway opportunity and Morrison blocked Craig Bryson’s shot superbly, ably assisted by Grounds and Davis. After the break, he then bravely turned behind a dangerous Kenneth Zahore cross which threatened to find Hoilett at the back-post.

Cardiff pressure

The Bluebirds had spells of prominence in the latter stages, with substitute Aron Gunnarsson delivering some dangerous long throws. However, home full-backs Colin and Grounds became honorary centre-backs, assisting the imperious Roberts and Morrison aerially with some excellent defensive work. Their efforts were summed up by the fact that Cardiff didn’t register a shot on target for the first time since April, Peltier’s ballooned long-range effort on 87 minutes provoking a disbelieving look from ex-Palace manager Neil Warnock.

Cardiff need a Plan B

As well as Warnock’s side have done to top the league at this stage, they have only won twice since August and are without a goal in two games. Powerful, industrious midfielders have taken them a long way, but now they may need to introduce Lee Tomlin, who might be a lose cannon but is also capable of unlocking defensive opposition. Cardiff can struggle to break down teams that play them at their own game.

First step for Cotterill

Gary Rowett’s first home game in charge of Birmingham was a narrow win over the league leaders, shortly after a capitulation in the caretaker boss’ final game in charge. On Friday night, Steve Cotterill’s side showed similar qualities to the ones the Blues displayed under Rowett. The current boss will hope for similar results.