John Eustace hailed his side’s spirit (Richard Sellers/PA)
05 November 2022

John Eustace hails spirit of Birmingham after victory at Stoke

05 November 2022

John Eustace praised his “spirited” Birmingham side as they closed the gap on the Sky Bet Championship play-offs to four points with victory at Stoke.

The Blues notched an early opener when Scott Hogan dispossessed a sleeping Phil Jagielka before finishing.

And the visitors doubled their lead after the interval when Harlee Dean nodded home a Hannibal Mejbri corner.

Lewis Baker then handed the hosts a lifeline when he converted from the spot late on.

But the Potters were resigned to a fourth defeat in five games in another frustrating afternoon on home soil.

Despite registering only three shots on target, a clinical Birmingham secured their return to the top half of the table.

Boss Eustace, a former Stoke player, said: “I thought it was a really dogged performance and I was really proud of the efforts of the group.

“The spirit of the boys from minute one was fantastic, and it was a fantastic win. Their attitude has been different class all season.

“We’ve been here five months; it was really rock bottom with the atmosphere of the club and how things were going.

“It was so important for me to bring in players who want to play for the club to try and create that connection with the fans.

“Whatever’s happening off the field, we can’t control that, but it’s so important that my players make the fans proud every time they go out on that pitch.

“To play for Birmingham, which is a fantastic and huge football club, they should be very honoured and very proud.

“I think the fans see that now and the connection is there. I trust the process of what we’re doing, and you can see that they’re all buying into it.

“We’re taking each game as it comes; there’s going to be highs and lows and it’s going okay at the moment, but no one’s getting carried away with things.”

Stoke, who have now suffered three successive home defeats, were booed off by a disgruntled Potters support.

With only four wins from Alex Neil’s 13 games in charge, the club slumped to 19th in the division, two points above the drop zone.

Neil said: “It feels as if I’m on repeat all the time. We can’t give the goals away that we did and expect to pick up points at this level.

“Every time we make an error at the moment, it seems to end up in the back of our net. Our confidence at the moment, for whatever reason, is extremely fragile.

“I don’t think Birmingham controlled the match or had many chances throughout the game.

“I think what we may need to do is not take any risks on the ball. It’s not how I’d ideally like to play but arguably this is where we’re at.

“I don’t think that’s personally enough at this level if you want to be a good team, but when you continually give cheap goals away, it might be something we need to do in the meantime.

“People are naturally frustrated. The bulk of home fans only see us at home and our form here has been extremely poor, and I need to make that better.

“It’s not just happening now; it’s happened for an extended period of time under four different coaches.

“What I can do from my perspective, I can eliminate risk albeit it’s not overly pleasant on the eyes.”

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