Bolton 0-1 Birmingham: Lukas Jutkiewicz boosts 10-man Blues survival hopes
Last Updated: 03/04/18 11:34pm
Lukas Jutkiewicz scored the only goal as 10-man Birmingham boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 win at relegation rivals Bolton.
The former Bolton striker's 40th-minute winner was his first Sky Bet Championship goal in six months and it secured a third successive win for Garry Monk's side. But the Blues played the final 23 minutes with 10 men after Che Adams was dismissed for a foul on substitute Craig Noone.
Wanderers, who remain ahead of Birmingham on goal difference, had two second-half penalty appeals for handball turned down by referee Oliver Langford.
And despite facing late pressure, Birmingham held on to move five points clear of third-bottom Barnsley.
The safety battle attracted a season's best attendance of 21,097 at the Macron Stadium, including nearly 5,000 visiting fans.
Wanderers fashioned the first chance with Sammy Ameobi whipping in a left-footed cross but an unmarked Will Buckley tamely headed wide when he should have hit the target.
But chances at either end were in short supply for most of the half. The lack of quality was summed up seven minutes before the interval when David Davis took aim from nearly 30 yards and almost landed the ball in the second tier.
But the Blues' invaluable goal arrived a minute later. Following a Karl Henry foul, Jacques Maghoma floated in a free-kick and an unmarked Jutkiewicz fired home from 10 yards.
Recent history was against Bolton coming back to win the contest, with Phil Parkinson's goal-shy outfit having not scored more than one goal in a game since upsetting Cardiff 2-0 on December 23.
Jutkiewicz's speculative long-distance drive forced Ben Alnwick into his first real save of the game after 50 minutes.
Wanderers' frustration was clear to see and Jon Flanagan was booked for hacking down Adams.
Parkinson, not one for early substitutions, made an exception with his team struggling to make any impression on a side bidding for a third successive clean sheet. Noone replaced Derik after 55 minutes in a more dynamic formation as Bolton searched for inspiration.
They also needed a positive decision from referee Langford who turned down mass home shouts for a spot-kick when Jota appeared to handle Buckley's cross.
Langford then had to make another big call as Adams recklessly scythed down Noone. The 21-year-old kicked the players' tunnel as he departed after a straight red card but could have no complaints.
Adam Le Fondre lobbed an effort over the crossbar while Langford rejected a hand-ball appeal against Michael Morrison from Le Fondre's flick as the Blues held on.
Phil Parkinson: "I have only seen one of [the penalty shouts] and it is the clearest pen you are ever likely to see. All the rules about where your arms need to be - it ticked a lot of boxes to be a penalty put it that way. I have not seen the second one but the lads saw it and said it was a pen.
"I was at the Birmingham game Saturday and they got a pen which never was and tonight we didn't get one which was. Games are always going to be decided on tight decisions and we came out on the wrong side of a big call."
Garry Monk: "We knew it was a massive game against a team who were directly above us. We knew it was an opportunity to try and claw them closer to us and pull them into this relegation fight.
"What the three wins in a row have done is keep boosting the belief. However, I am very mindful we are still very much in a relegation fight. It is going to change week-to-week but what we want to be is a team that hunts for the guys above us rather than checking over our shoulders all the time. We still need more wins and more points."