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Birmingham 1-0 Fulham Cham 29 1617 - Birmingham Mail

last updated Monday 06th February 2017, 10:04 AM

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Brian Dick at Birmingham Mail

Reading (0) 1-0 (0) Fulham

Lukas Jutkiewicz’s 11th goal of the season gave Gianfranco Zola his first victory in 11 attempts at Birmingham City manager.

The striker gleefully poked Cheick Keita’s cross past David Button with just 15 minutes remaining to sent St Andrew’s into raptures.

Birmingham still had to survive a late scare and some Fulham pressure but the hope now is that Zola’s tenure is up and running.

And it took a reshuffle to produce it - with four changes and a new diamond formation in midfield.

Blues were much more direct during the first half, with Craig Gardner frequently running beyond Jutkiewicz.

That almost paid off in the ninth minute then the striker glanced Tomasz Kuszczak’s punt forward into Gardner’s path.

However, Fulham goalkeeper Button raced out before Gardner could apply the necessary touch.

But the first clear cut chance of the game went to the visitors, thankfully for Blues Stefan Johansen’s header from Ryan Fredericks’ right wing cross was mercifully weak.

Midway through the period Gardner and Jutkiewicz combined again and the striker’s header was anything but weak.

Gardner did superbly beating a man on the touchline and lifting a cross to find his team-mate four yards out.

As he always seems to of late Jutkiewicz crashed his attempt off the crossbar.

Five minutes later Zola’s men worked the ball well into the 27-year-old’s feet and he spun adroitly but his low shot ran straight through to Button.

Blues remained vulnerable at the back right up until the break, though.

And they were lucky that Chris Martin couldn’t quite back pedal quickly enough to direct Tom Cairney’s centre goalwards.

Kevin McDonald also had a shot charged down - by Jutkiewicz, after Martin’s knock down.

The hosts had the first shot of the second period - and it came from good work by debutant Jerome Sinclair.

The 20-year-old took a pass down with one touch, turned and ran at the Fulham defence, he attracted three defenders and although his low shot seemed to lack power it had Button scrambling to turn it aside.

Zola’s men had a massive let off a couple of minutes later as Sone Aluko swung a cross into the middle where Martin missed with a low header from six yards.

On the hour Jonathan Grounds couldn’t quite get on the end of Gardner’s free kick which ran through to the back post.

Then with a quarter of the match to go, momentum swung decisively.

Ryan Fredericks was sent off for clattering Gardner near the touch-line, which left acres of space in the right back berth.

Blues exploited it to perfection with a quarter of an hour to go when Davis found Keita in the box and the young left back did brilliantly and sent in a low cross which Jutkiewicz poked home.

Buoyed by that the former Burnley man tested Button with an overhead kick from 16 yards which the ‘keeper tipped over the bar.

Fulham had a golden chance to equalise deep into stoppage time when McDonald found Floyd Ayite free in the box but the attacker sliced hopelessly wide of the post.

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