Alex McLeish hailed the steel of ten-man Birmingham City as they muscled their way into contention for the Championship title at St Andrew’s last night.
Goals in either half for Cameron Jerome and Garry O’Connor sealed a victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers that moved Birmingham to within two points of their table-topping rivals.
However, after an encouraging start, the home side could have seen their hopes dashed when they lost captain Lee Carsley to a red-card in the first-half following a horrendous challenge on Wolves striker Chris Iwelumo.
Rather than dent Birmingham’s hopes, the incident appeared to affect the visitors from the Black Country more and the Blues went on to gain what could ultimately end up being a silverware- winning victory.
Delighted manager McLeish was left to crow.
“We are very euphoric in there (the dressing room), it was a great performance and we had everything tonight with the drama in the game,” declared McLeish. “Great goals but superb work-rate and organisation from my team and they were absolutely magnificent.
“I have to compliment the full house at St Andrew’s at last, it was a joy to behold and they played there part as well. As I’ve always said, the crowd have that power.”
McLeish did admit that he briefly feared his luck was against him when Carsley was given his marching orders.
“I thought we had given a good account of ourselves even up to then (the sending- off) and we had made a good start to the game. I felt reasonably relaxed about the way the players were handling it, I had a good thrust for them tonight.
“Losing Lee, you’re then wondering if the gods are against you because Wolves are capable of finishing anybody, never mind with ten man. But we showed that steel, resilience, perseverance. I don’t think we deserve any criticism from tonight’s performance.”
Meanwhile Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, familiar with Carsley from his Republic of Ireland days, said that there would have been no malice in the midfielder’s challenge.
“I know Lee Carsley – he wouldn’t be going to hurt anybody,” said McCarthy. “He is a competitor and I think he just mis-timed it and he’s caught him, it’s not a very nice tackle that is for sure. Let me tell you, Lee Carsley is one of the nicest blokes in football that I’ve come across but it happens when you go to tackle people. I don’t think for one minute that he has attempted to do Chris Iwelumo but it was late and it doesn’t look nice.”
Iwelumo was stretchered off following Carsley’s studs high tackle into the side of his right knee in the 37th minute.
“Chris has just got a sore knee,” said McCarthy. “He’s got it in ice and we will have to have him looked at, he’ll probably go for a scan.”