Advertisement

Blackburn Rovers' second-half show secures Birmingham City victory

Blackburn Rovers beat Birmingham City 4-2. <i>(Image: Camerasport)</i>
Blackburn Rovers beat Birmingham City 4-2. (Image: Camerasport)

Two goals in five second-half minutes from Sam Szmodics saw Blackburn Rovers secure a much-needed home win, beating Birmingham City 4-2.

Rovers' top-scorer added his 12th and 13th of the season in quick succession to celebrate his new contract at the club. The forward was at the end of two slick passing moves and showed great composure to dink the Birmingham City goalkeeper not once but twice.

After a tight first half, it was the perfect tonic to warm the Ewood Park crowd in frosty conditions. Four goals followed in the 18 minutes that followed the interval.

James Hill got himself off the mark in blue and white after taking the crowd's advice to shoot from range. In truth, it was a shot that should have been repelled by John Ruddy, who won't be rushing to see a replay.

To their credit, Birmingham responded quickly. Siriki Dembele got himself on the scoresheet as he burst into the box and curled into the corner. Leopold Wahlstedt then did his bit to keep the margin at two with saves to deny Juninho Bacuna and Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Wayne Rooney's side did not accept defeat though and set up a nervy final ten minutes when Dembele added his second. He jinked and weaved some space on the edge of the box and curled the ball into the net from the edge of the box.

However, with added time on the clock, Harry Leonard ended the contest as he drove the ball into the bottom corner inside the area.

That secured the points for Rovers and earned a much-welcomed home victory, only their fourth of the Championship season.

After an impressive win at Stoke City, Tomasson's side knew they had a big opportunity ahead of them. With Birmingham City at Ewood Park and a trip to rock-bottom Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, Rovers were targeting a six-point haul.

Whilst the success on the road had been well documented, Rovers' form at Ewood Park hadn't been as sparkling. Only three teams had a worse record in front of their own fans heading into the midweek fixtures, a stat that Blackburn were desperate to change.

Birmingham City's travel sickness offered reason for optimism too. Wayne Rooney's Blues, who tasted their first win under his reign at the weekend, had lost their last six away Championship games.

Although the points have not followed, the performance at home and away have not been that stark. Tomasson chalks the difference down to the timing of goals, something that Rovers haven't managed to replicate from their travels to home comforts.

Tomasson was forced into one change, with Lewis Travis replacing the injured Scott Wharton at right-back, but there was little reason to change a winning formula.

Despite the sub-zero temperatures, Rovers started the game quite brightly. They had Birmingham on the back foot and penned in, pressing the ball high and causing the visitors problems.

Tyrhys Dolan warmed the gloves of Ruddy in what proved to be his last action. The Blackburn Rovers forward was forced off with injury, adding to the already lengthy list in the treatment room.

That setback punctured Rovers' momentum. The hosts struggled to refind their rhythm in what was a disjointed display for the rest of the half.

Birmingham came into the game and caused problems, particularly down their left through the lively Siriki Dembele. The forward had already shown flashes of danger before he skipped past a challenge and rattled an effort off the crossbar from a tight angle.

Rovers didn't have chances though at the other end. Most of their best play came through Andrew Moran, who was central to a few neat, one-touch passing moves.

One of which saw him find Lewis Travis on the overlap but his cross to Leonard was deflected out for a corner. The skipper was then booked for a late challenge on Dembele and is now suspended for Saturday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday after collecting his fifth yellow card.

The two teams exchanged blows just before the break with goalkeepers on top. Bacuna fired just wide from a narrow-angle before Callum Brittain tested the reflexes of Ruddy with a powerful shot from outside the area.

If Rovers hadn't quite warmed up the loyal Ewood crowd in the first half, they wasted little time to get them off their seats in the second. Just two minutes had passed when Wharton's defence-splitting pass released Szmodics and he dinked the ball over Ruddy for his 12th of the season.

The Rovers marksman was celebrating his new contract in style as he added a second minutes later to put the hosts in complete control. This time Leonard was the provider, slipping him through on goal for another lofted finish into the net.

The scoring wasn't over there as Blackburn blitzed Birmingham in a 14-minute spell. Hill was next on the score sheet as he listened to shouts to let fly and his shot squirmed past Ruddy and into the net. Let's just say the Blues goalkeeper won't want to see a replay any time soon.

At three nil, it would be fair to assume the result might be secure but that proved not to be the case. Birmingham came roaring back, seemingly awake after their early slumber, and reduced the deficit through Dembele.

The lively winger skipped away from one challenge and drove into the box, curling the ball into the top corner past Leopold Wahlstedt. That put Rovers on the back foot as the visitors then pushed for a route back into the game with Wahlstedt called upon to deny Bacuna at the near post.

The Blackburn goalkeeper was called upon again as he kept out Lukas Jutkiewicz's header from close range. Rovers struggled to get a real foothold back in the match, turning possession over like a hot potato when they needed to take the sting out of the match.

In the end, the pressure told and Dembele set up a nervy finish by reducing the arrears to a solitary goal. He worked some space with impressive footwork on the edge of the box and curled it into the net.

As the board went up with six added minutes, the gasps around Ewood Park were audible. However, any tension soon disappeared as Rovers made the points safe.

Leonard picked up the ball on the right corner of the box and fired across goal to make it 4-2 and end the game as a contest. The win keeps Rovers two points adrift of the play-offs but lifts them up to seventh.