Angry Birmingham City boss Aitor Karanka has warned his side that it will be “impossible” to avoid relegation from the Championship if punchless Blues carry on playing as badly as they did in the dismal 1-0 home defeat by Luton Town.
Luton left-back Dan Potts headed the only goal of the game on 31 minutes from Harry Cornick’s long throw to earn the Hatters their fifth away win of the season – and even offer hope of an unlikely Championship play-off push for Nathan Jones’ side.
But Karanka, fresh from being given the “100%” backing of chief executive Xuandong Ren, was left stunned by the surrender of three points by relegation-haunted Blues, who suffered their ninth home defeat in an alarming winless 11-game run.
Asked whether he thinks struggling City will avoid a drop to the third tier for the first time since 1995, Karanka told BBC Radio WM: “Playing the way we did today? No.
“It is impossible to believe and keep the faith. I was positive and strong over the way we played the last four games. But the way we played today it’s going to be difficult.
“It was really poor. It was difficult to understand how Luton, who had only six more points than us before the game, wanted to win more than us. We didn’t realise how important the game was.”
It was only a seventh away league goal this season for Luton, who have not scored more than once in any game on their travels – and, for matchwinner Potts, in a career haul of 11 goals in seven seasons for Luton, this was his ninth away from home.
But it was enough to spell another home defeat for Blues in a winless run on home soil that stretches back to beating Huddersfield Town on 28 October.
While Blues remain in 23rd place, the lowest they have been in the table in over six years, they are at least only a point adrift of safety – and nine clear of bottom club Wycombe Wanderers.
But they have to find a way of solving a lack of goals – only five in that awful 11-game home run – and only one shot on target mustered against Jones’ hard-working, well-organised visitors.
Luton had not beaten Blues since a 3-2 Championship win under Mike Newell at Kenilworth Road in October 2006, prior to the Hatters’ subsequent fall from grace – when they slipped out of the Football League before climbing back through the divisions.
But, in a game of very few chances, after netting just twice in eight away league games since early November, Potts scored the one that mattered for Luton.
That lifted Town to 14th, within nine points of sixth-placed Bournemouth ahead of Tuesday’s home game with Cardiff City, while Blues are back in action the following evening at former boss Gary Rowett’s Millwall.
Reaction – ‘We did the basics right’
Birmingham City boss Aitor Karanka told BBC WM:
“I don’t want to think that the players don’t realise what our situation is.
“It’s not an easy situation. But they have to work harder and today was the opposite.
“Every single corner was a chance for them as we didn’t defend as strongly as we should.”
Luton Town boss Nathan Jones told BBC Three Counties Radio:
“Whatever Birmingham threw at us we dealt with. I don’t think they’ve really had one shot on target.
“It wasn’t fluent and it was not a game filled with quality but it was really important that we did the basics right.
“We’ve come off a tough run, of Bournemouth away, Brentford away, Chelsea away and Blackburn away, from which we were a bit disappointed to get only three points,. But this was about backing up performances with points.”
- 19San JoséBooked at 58mins
- 17SánchezSubstituted forLekoat 55′minutes
- 20GardnerSubstituted forCosgroveat 69′minutes
- 35HalilovicSubstituted forHarperat 55′minutesBooked at 62mins
- 11BelaSubstituted forSunjicat 69′minutes
- 9HoganSubstituted forJutkiewiczat 69′minutes
- 3PottsBooked at 50mins
- 18ClarkSubstituted forNaismithat 70′minutes
Match ends, Birmingham City 0, Luton Town 1.
Second Half ends, Birmingham City 0, Luton Town 1.
Corner, Luton Town. Conceded by Yan Valery.
Offside, Luton Town. Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu tries a through ball, but James Collins is caught offside.
Hand ball by Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town).
Foul by Jonathan Leko (Birmingham City).
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Luton Town. Conceded by Yan Valery.
Attempt blocked. Dan Potts (Luton Town) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall with a cross.
Foul by George Friend (Birmingham City).
James Collins (Luton Town) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Rekeem Harper (Birmingham City).
Matty Pearson (Luton Town) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Rekeem Harper (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Glen Rea (Luton Town).
Attempt missed. Mikel San José (Birmingham City) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right following a corner.
Corner, Birmingham City. Conceded by Sonny Bradley.
Offside, Luton Town. Matty Pearson tries a through ball, but James Collins is caught offside.
Jonathan Leko (Birmingham City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town).