April 10, 2016 by Shane Ireland
By Shane Ireland
Birmingham City applied a spark to their glimmering hopes of a play-off spot with a comfortable 2-0 win against Reading.
Blues sit nine points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday after the victory – with a game in hand at home to Leeds United on Tuesday – thanks to goals from Clayton Donaldson and Ryan Shotton, which kept their flickering top six flame burning.
Donaldson opened the scoring inside the first two minutes before Shotton scored his first goal since joining on loan from Derby County to double Blues’ lead, and inflict Reading’s first home defeat in 2016.
Although Gary Rowett’s side will have to stage an extraordinary push to etch their name into the play-off picture, the boss remains hopeful.
“It’s funny. We’d ruled ourselves out of the play-offs, now suddenly all the other results are going for us. You win a game and all the lads are saying ‘You know what, we’ve still got half a chance here,’ he said,
“But it’s irrelevant really. We’ve got to try to win every game. We want players at this club who are going to give everything they can, whether it’s a testimonial, a friendly or whatever.
“Mathematically, and if we win the game in hand – at home to Leeds on Tuesday night – then our situation could start to look a little bit different.
“We know what we’re good at. We’ve got to work very hard and, when we’re very organised and finish off one or two of the chances that we create, then we’re an excellent team. I can’t remember them having one meaningful chance.”
He saw his side make the perfect start at a rainy Madejski, breaking the deadlock after just 73 seconds.
David Cotterill delivered a cross towards Donaldson in the box, who escaped his marker and headed home from six yards.
At the other end, Reading midfielder Danny Williams failed to capitalise on Jonathan Grounds’ scruffy clearance, firing over the crossbar from close range.
With the next chance of the match, Blues doubled their lead with only their third goal in seven games on the road.
Cotterill was again involved, this time the Welsh winger stung Royals’ ‘keeper Ali Al-Habsi’s hands with a powerful 30-yard free-kick and Shotton was on hand to slide the rebound beyond the grounded stopper.
Al-Habsi may think he could have done a little better with the initial save, but his opposite number Adam Legzdins almost dropped a clanger that could have allowed the hosts back into the match.
Legzdins, making his league debut between the sticks for Blues, fumbled Paul McShane’s header across the line, but his blushes were spared by the linesman’s raised flag.
Reading’s Stephen Quinn then headed wide, before Legzdins had to make his first save of the afternoon with the hour mark approaching.
Williams fired an effort at goal from outside the box, which the Blues goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt.
For all of their possession, the home side could not meaningfully test Legzdins and wasted opportunities as the second-half progressed.
Jake Cooper nodded Oliver Norwood’s cross well over, before Yann Kermogant’s tame header was saved.
Blues were content with their two-goal lead and contained the Royals as the second-period drew to a close, claiming a first win in six, and their first away from home since January.