Birmingham City 3-1 Rotherham United Six Things: Grand Old Juke of Small Heath

Lukasz Jutkiewicz scored a hat-trick as Birmingham City secured their first home win of the season in a 3-1 victory over Championship strugglers Rotherham United at St Andrews. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Rotherham’s pressing

When visiting target man Michael Smith was given reasonable service, he won the occasional aerial duel with centre-backs Michael Morrison and Harlee Dean, bringing into play the likes of Joe Newell and Ryan Williams. The problem was that most of the service into Smith was from deep and lacked accuracy. Because Paul Warne’s side lacked quality in possession, their better openings came when they pressed their hosts; Smith pick-pocketed Dean before Ryan Williams, the away team’s brightest performer, waltzed past two defenders before forcing a block.

Birmingham’s three-minute double-salvo

Jota’s deep-flighted right-wing corner found Lukasz Jutkiewicz, who escaped the attentions of auxiliary centre-back Will Vaulks, before heading inside the near-post thanks to an unfortunate blunder from Marek Rodak on 20 minutes. Jota caused all sorts of problems for semi-fit left-back Joe Mattock and after his run led to blocked shots from Che Adams and Gary Gardner, Jutkiewicz was on hand to turn the ball home. After an even start, that second goal greased the wheels of Birmingham’s performance, as gaps opened up and confidence began to flow.

Grand Old Juke of Small Heath

Just eight days ago, Jutkiewicz had been performing well but he only had one league goal to his name; it looked like he’d be the one doing a lot of important work in terms of occupying centre-backs and winning knock-downs, but others would carry the goalscoring burden. Since then though, the former Burnley striker has scored five goals in three matches; he completed the first hat-trick of his senior career just after the second half’s midway point, drilling home a free-kick from just outside the box. The 29-year-old fully deserved his match ball, having worked incredibly hard afternoon.

Millers’ futile resurgence

Various substitutions allowed Rotherham to produce a spirited finale. Youngster Ben Wiles made a few bright runs after replacing the disappointing Ryan Manning in midfield, while forward Kyle Vassell injected energy and forced two saves from Lee Camp. The latter crossed for the back-post and, with Birmingham’s defence not looking quite as organized after Morrison was replaced by Marc Roberts, Jon Taylor got ahead of Dean to tap home. Still, it wasn’t enough for Rotherham to prevent a sixth away defeat of the campaign.

Tough task for Warne

After Rotherham won promotion, chairman Tony Stewart clearly prioritized the long-term financial sustainability of the club; he only made three permanent signings. We could be seeing the downside to that approach now, because injuries mean the Millers possess little cover in what looks very much like a League One squad. While the body language in the side conveys much more spirit than we saw in the last-placed finish at this level two years ago, they are not too much better off in terms of quality and when January comes, that is something they will have to address.

A par performance from Blues

While Birmingham performed well in this game, the positive display didn’t come as a surprise, nor did it seem too much better than the standard. Indeed, Garry Monk’s troops played just as well against other teams, including Ipswich the week before, and drawn. That is, in some ways, the most encouraging aspect of the afternoon: Blues managed to maintain their usual standards whilst finding the elusive finishing touch. Keep this up and a very exciting three-quarters of the campaign may lie ahead.