Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Birmingham City: Blues earn vital win over ten-man Owls
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Birmingham City climbed out of the bottom three with a vital 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough Stadium.

The Blues picked up their first win in seven games thanks to Scott Hogan's sixth goal of the season in the 63rd minute, which came after Liam Shaw was dismissed for a second bookable offence. 

Story of the match

It was a tedious beginning to the contest at Hillsborough, with neither side being able to create any clear-cut opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.

The Owls settled into the game well, claiming 62% of the opening quarter’s possession stats, as well as enjoying the better of the first-half chances.

Wednesday had the game’s opening effort in the 18th minute of the game. Callum Paterson’s long throw ended back at the forward’s feet, where the Scotsman lifted the ball over the challenge of Kristian Pedersen. Paterson volleyed the ball into the middle, which Tom Lees guided towards goal, but the shot was held by Neil Etheridge.

The Owls continued to ask questions of the away side, testing them with two successive long throws from Paterson on 24 minutes.

Firstly, his initial throw was headed out to Matt Penney – situated on the edge – but his fierce drive was bravely blocked in the centre before being cleared for another throw. Paterson then hurled the ball back into the area, with it landing on the head of Barry Bannan, whose soft effort was held by Etheridge.

On the half-hour mark, the Blues had their first major opportunity, with former Owls loanee Gary Gardner steering wide of the target from Jérémie Bela’s superb delivery.

Birmingham were slowly working their way into the contest, almost taking the lead just before the break but were thwarted by two superb blocks from Liam Palmer and Sam Hutchinson, who both prevented potential goals from Ivan Sunjic and Scott Hogan respectively.

The half-time whistle seemingly came at the wrong time for the Blues, however, their new-found dominance continued into the second period.

Five minutes after the restart, Liam Shaw, who penned a pre-contract with Celtic last week, collected his second red card of the season, receiving a second yellow for a reckless challenge on Maxime Colin.

10 minutes after the restart, Gardner was slipped through on goal and attempted to pull the ball back into the path of Ivan Sanchez, however, Hutchinson dove in and blocked the pass.

Bannan, who signed a new contract with the Owls on Thursday, then went close for Wednesday, slicing wide of the upright after good play from Penney.

On the hour mark, Bela almost netted his fourth goal of the campaign, angling an effort towards Keiren Westwood’s near post, but the Wednesday ‘keeper held onto the shot.

Bela did, however, grab his eighth goal involvement of the season as Birmingham opened the scoring on 63 minutes, with Hogan poking the winger’s inviting cross past Westwood.

Starting in a four-at-the-back formation, the Owls switched to a three, throwing on Adam Reach for Chey Dunkley in hope of an equaliser, though, many of Wednesday’s attacks seemed to fizzle out as City were defending for their lives.

With two minutes remaining, Etheridge produced a magnificent stop to deny Jordan Rhodes, whose header across goal was tipped wide of the far post in the 88th minute. 

Takeaways from the game

Epoch-making victory for Blues

Birmingham ended a seven-game winless run with a vital victory over another relegation rival to lift the Blues out of the bottom three, creating a two-point gap between themselves and 22nd-placed Rotherham United.

The Blues were forced to hang on at times; they weathered the storm perfectly before taking advantage of their extra man to lead, slipping back into a resolute defensive line to break their slump of late.

This should give Aitor Karanka’s side a lift going into a tough run of fixtures, starting with leaders Norwich City on Tuesday night.

The ‘Robin Hood’ of the Championship

The Owls are one of the kindest teams in the division, as when a side who are on a bad run face Wednesday, they seem to end that spell at their expense.

Nottingham Forest were winless in seven games and beat Wednesday in December. Both Coventry City and Millwall had one win in seven games, both came away with victories. Stoke City, on Tuesday night, were without a win in eleven games and picked up all three points against the Owls.

Alas, it two wins in 14 games for Birmingham before their 1-0 victory on Saturday.

Wednesday must stop this trend if they are going to stay in the division, because their inconsistencies are going to cost them come May.

Man of the match

Neil Etheridge

This was a toss-up between Bola and the ‘keeper, and despite the winger’s assist and threat down the left, it was the latter’s importance that prevailed in the end.

Etheridge made three saves, including a match-winning stop to turn Rhodes’ goal-bound header wide of the target.

The Philippines international proved his worth throughout the game and, for me, was the biggest difference between the two sides.