John Eustace pleased to prove Birmingham doubters wrong
Manager John Eustace was beaming with pride after Birmingham battled to a 1-0 win over Millwall at the Den.
Lukas Jutkiewicz smuggled home the winner in the 28th minute and the Blues held on to all-but ensure their Championship status for next season.
Millwall have now failed to score in five of their last six matches and could have their two-point cushion to seventh wiped out if West Brom and Blackburn win their games in hand.
The landmark victory confirmed Birmingham’s highest points tally since 2017 and Eustace was delighted to prove the pre-season predictions wrong.
He said: “No one likes to be written off. Obviously we came in at the start of the season favourites for relegation.
“No problem, it gives us something to fight for and throughout the season there have been some really difficult moments.
“Whenever we’ve been really tested, we’ve come through those moments to get to 53 points, something to be very proud of.”
Eustace was particularly effusive in his praise of substitute goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who pulled off several fine stops after replacing the injured John Ruddy late in the first half.
He added: “[Etheridge] pushes John Ruddy to the maximum. When he was called upon it was an outstanding performance.
“We’ve got a really good group of senior boys and they do things properly. They never let you down whenever they’re called upon.”
The Blues manager also singled out 17-year-old Jobe Bellingham after the midfielder looked assured in just his second senior league start of his career
“There’s a lot of pressure on Jobe because of who his brother [Jude] is and we have to protect him,” said Eustace.
“To come here in a really hostile atmosphere against a very difficult team, I thought he was outstanding. He really controlled the game at times.”
Millwall boss Gary Rowett was pleased with his team’s performance but was left frustrated with the officials’ lack of action towards Birmingham’s game-management tactics.
He said: “The goal allows them to slow the game down. I think that was one of my huge frustrations. They’re entitled to do that and I’ve got no problem with Birmingham doing it at all.
“If you look at the substitutions, the goalkeeper taking time, their bench kicking the ball away towards the end of the game and nothing was done about it.
“It was probably the worst I’ve seen it managed. It has to be stamped out.
“But second half, I’m not sure what else we could do other than score. We got into some great positions, created some big chances and you’ve got to take the chances. It’s as simple as that.”
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