Birmingham City vs Middlesbrough. Sky Bet Championship.
St. Andrew's StadiumAttendance18,301.
Tuesday 6 March 2018 23:15, UK
Birmingham's new manager Garry Monk was shown the size of the task facing him as his former club Middlesbrough inflicted Blues' sixth successive Championship defeat.
The rejuvenated Patrick Bamford, who struggled to make any sort of impact while Monk was at Boro, continued his scorching run of form with his seventh goal in the last four games to seal a 1-0 win for the Teessiders.
It was not a happy 39th birthday for Monk as his successor Tony Pulis, making his first return to the Midlands since being sacked by West Brom, chalked up his seventh win in 14 games since taking over at Boro.
Obviously keen to impress their new manager, Birmingham made a positive start but it was Middlesbrough who appeared to be the more dangerous. Bamford displayed his potential threat when he set up Mo Besic but the Bosnia and Herzegovina international saw his close-range effort deflected for a corner.
Boro played with cool assurance and applied strong pressure, with Adama Traore in particular proving troublesome with his trickery and pace.
Birmingham's response was a powerful long-range effort from Craig Gardner which had former Blues goalkeeper Darren Randolph scrambling to his right to save, while the reinstated Jota sent an effort into the side netting.
One pleasing feature for Birmingham was the return to form of Jacques Maghoma. Given the freedom to roam by manager Monk he was revitalised compared to recent lethargic form.
Resolute defensive play kept Birmingham in the game but they finally succumbed in the 39th minute when a left-wing cross from Traore went through a packed defence and found Bamford on the far post, where he turned home the ball from close range.
To their credit Birmingham strived to get back into the game but they highlighted why they are the team with the worst goalscoring record in the entire Football League.
Jota continued to be a potential threat but the introduction of striker Sam Gallagher and Jeremie Boga failed to produce the elusive equaliser and the hosts remained in the relegation zone.
Garry Monk: "It was a tight game and we were unfortunate with the goal. We dominated the second half but couldn't quite get the equaliser. I was very happy with the commitment, desire and passion displayed by the players.
"There are things to be worked on in terms what has been happening over the last two years. No one could dispute the desire of the players to do well in the game."
Tony Pulis: "I never thought there was a time in the game they would score. I was pleased with the resilience of the lads as it was a difficult game for everyone. It was difficult with a new manager taking over Birmingham who was the last manager of Middlesbrough before I stepped through the door.
"You usually get the bounce effect with a new manager so it was always going to be tough for us. It was a great result for Middlesbrough."