Alex McLeish admitted that he had given his defenders ‘the benefit of the doubt’ after they had blamed poor floodlighting for a first-half horror show at Home Park.

Birmingham City produced arguably their worst display of the season, particularly at the back, during last night’s match at Plymouth Argyle.

The Blues’ entire back four of Franck Queudrue, Martin Taylor, Radhi Jaidi and Nicky Hunt were all guilty of some suspect defending before the half-time interval.

Fortunately Lee Carsley’s well-taken second-half goal spared their blushes as Birmingham ground out an important 1-0 victory.

However, the floodlight excuse they produced may have substance as McLeish later admitted.

Plymouth wore their away colours due to earlier complaints about the standard of lighting at Home Park so Birmingham’s struggling backline weren’t the only ones having problems.

“The players complained about the floodlights they thought they were of a very poor standard,” said McLeish. “It was difficult for me to judge in the dugout. Obviously Plymouth are used to it. Four or five of our first attempted clearances by defenders were mis-kicked which I thought was not normal. I thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt but it comes out of the footballers’ book of excuses.

“I read that Plymouth were wearing their away kits because of past trouble with their floodlights so it is obviously a concern but in the end we churned out a very important victory.”

The victory was all the more important given that Birmingham were without eight first team players due to injury and illness and that promotion rivals Reading and Wolverhampton Wanderers elsewhere.

Last night’s hard-earned win in Devon may just turn out to be one of the most crucial of this Championship campaign and it all came courtesy of Carsley’s first goal for his hometown club.

“If ever there was a result that was ground out then that was one,” added McLeish. “We always looked dangerous with our speed up front and Quincy was in good form.

“I’ve looked at other squads in this league and I would have thought that we would have more players than them. Surprisingly teams below us have 21 or 22 players and today we had a 16-year-old in the squad and Damien Johnson came in back well ahead of schedule.”