Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish believes that last night’s FA Cup defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers will have no bearing on the Championship promotion race.
A first-half Andy Keogh strike and a Sam Vokes goal after the break was enough to put Wolves through to the fourth round to face Middlesbrough at the expense of their near neighbours.
McLeish was left to bemoan Birmingham’s bad luck as he watched his severely-depleted team be undone by an energetic Wolves side.
If missing eight players through various reasons wasn’t enough to cope with, some moments of controversy from referee Howard Webb failed to ease McLeish’s headache.
However, the Scotsman was certainly not prepared to admit defeat to Mick McCarthy’s side away from the unpredictable cup competition.
“I don’t think this result will have any bearing on the Championship,” said McLeish. “Mick made some changes and we had a real catalogue of bad luck tonight with players who weren’t available and also the injuries. That doesn’t help.
“You need to have your best players available when you are playing against teams that are the calibre of Wolves.
“It was just one of those nights when nothing went for us. We had eight players missing who could have conceivably started the game tonight. The players who weren’t available were brought in to change the dynamic of the team but they will be available on the weekend apart from possible injuries.”
The first talking point of the match regarding Mr Webb was what looked a stonewall penalty appeal for the home side in the 44th minute. Wolves defender Richard Stearman, who was already on a yellow card, appeared to scythe down Marcus Bent in the penalty area but the official waved play on before the visitors went on to launch another threatening counter-attack.
Replays showed that it was a clear penalty and Bent was substituted at the break with an ankle injury that had been caused by Stearman’s tackle.
Then to make matters worse, Mr Webb deflected Radhi Jaidi’s Damien Johnson-bound pass to Keogh seconds before Wolverhampton’s second goal in the 51st minute.
“It was a great set-up pass from Howard, wasn’t it,” joked McLeish when asked about that particular incident.
Although when it came to the penalty claims, McLeish insisted that the referee’s decision was wrong but the dignified Birmingham manager refused to blame Mr Webb for his team’s undoing and even labelled him as a ‘superb’ offical.
“The penalty was a major decision and we felt aggrieved that it was a bad challenge on Bent in the box,” said McLeish. “Howard was the man on the spot and he’s a superb referee. On this occasion I believe he got it wrong but I need to see it again on the television.
“People tell me that the pictures that they have seen are pretty conclusive and that it should have been a penalty. So big decisions change games and we weren’t sure about Keogh’s goal for the opener. We thought it was possibly off side unless one of my defenders was lagging behind his team-mates.”