Aston Villa beat Birmingham as Harry Redknapp gets off to worst possible start

Tim Nash
Redknapp got off to the worst possible start: Getty

Harry Redknapp is confident he can keep Birmingham City in the Championship – but admits his players have made him 'scared to death' after losing 1-0 at arch rivals Aston Villa.

The 70-year-old was back in the dugout for the first time since February 2015 after taking over as Blues manager from Gianfranco Zola last week.

The former Tottenham Hotspur boss was unable to stop Blues failing to win for the 10th game in a row and they are just two points clear of the drop zone with two games left.

Redknapp said: “When you look at it and we’d won two out of 24, it scares you to death.

Villa paid their respects to former defender Ugo Ehiogu, who died this week (Getty)

“But we’ve worked hard on the training ground and I'm very encouraged. I thought they carried it out to a tee, we just didn’t get the break when we needed it.”

Redknapp added: “We didn’t deserve to lose. They didn't have another shot in the second half - I don’t think our keeper got his gloves dirty.”

Birmingham's players couldn't adapt to Zola's style of play and Redknapp insists it's not going to be pretty as he attempts to pull off another Houdini act.

“We can’t play like Barcelona, we’re not capable, so we decided to get it forward, hit the front man and feed off him,” he said.

Redknapp remains confident of keeping Blues in the Championship.

“It’s not going to be easy but we’ve got a good chance,” he said.

“We’re at home this week and we have to make sure we try to win. If we work as hard as that, we’ve got every chance.”

Villa manager Steve Bruce said goal hero Gabby Agbonlahor has given the club their pride back after their relegation meltdown.

Jack Grealish celebrates right in front of the Birmingham dugout

Agbonlahor came off the bench in the 59th minute to settle the derby on 68, rifling home from close range after a game of head tennis from Henri Lansbury's corner.

It was his first goal since February 2016 in his first game since January 21 after a hamstring injury.

But it was the Brummie's fifth goal in 10 appearances against Blues, who have failed to beat their city rivals in the league in 10 meetings extending back to March 2005.

Bruce said: “We've taken away the stigma that the players don't care, they're not interested and they're not bothered.

“Just at the right time we needed him because it lifted the crowd - in his first two minutes he went roaring into a challenge.

“You can talk about tactics but supporters want to see exactly what he did, in a derby match where it means something.

“He's had his critics, but since I've been here in five months, he's been terrific.”

Agbonlahor has shed a stone and a half since Bruce's arrival but only has a year left on his contract.

Neil Taylor played well at left back for Villa

Bruce warned: “He's got a big summer ahead of him now – he can't just prepare all winter for Birmingham.”

Redknapp said: “Gabby? He did well - that will keep him happy for another year won't it?! Fantastic.”

Agbonlahor's chance was the rare highlight of what had been a desperately dull encounter prior to his arrival.

The game was dreadfully short on goalmouth action, and in fact the only real chance came seven minutes before the break.

David Davis spun away from Miles Jedinak down the left and the ball broke to Lukas Jutkiewicz, but his inviting cross was hooked harmlessly into the Holte End by Che Adams eight yards out.

Redknapp admitted that miss was costly and believes his players must learn to be sharper in and around the penalty area.

“It was a good chance. It was just his technique for the volley but he should have done better,” he said.

“We got into a couple of good positions, including a short corner which we walked in on them.

“Then it’s about the final ball. We just still lack a little bit of quality around the box.

“That's something we have to work on this week - getting balls into front man, and running off him.

“We can be cleverer around the box and create more.”

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Johnstone; Hutton, Chester, Baker, Taylor; Lansbury, Jedinak; Adomah (Gary Gardner, 75), Bacuna, Grealish (Agbonlahor 59); Hogan (Hourihane 82).

Substitutes not used: Bunn, Elphick, Bree, Amavi.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Nsue, Shotton, Robinson, Grounds; Davis, Kieftenbeld (Keita 89), Craig Gardner, Maghoma (Stewart 85); Jutkiewicz, Adams.

Substitutes not used: Legzdins, Tesche, Gleeson, Dacres-Cogley, Blelik.

Referee: S Hooper

Attendance: 40,884.

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