Birmingham 3-0 Middlesbro: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:20 18/03/12 By Brendan McLoughlin
Players feeling the strain of Birmingham’s punishing season will get no sympathy from Chris Hughton.
Saturday’s win over Middlesbrough was Blues’ 50th game in what has been a gruelling campaign thanks mainly to their Europa League exploits.
That number could end up reaching 63 if the St Andrew’s outfit end up achieving their ambition of going up via the play-offs.
But even that does not measure up to the 65 matches played by the Tottenham team marathon man Hughton was a part of in 1981-2.
They played 42 league matches (finishing fourth) and eight games each in the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup, losing to Liverpool in the final and Barcelona in the semis respectively. But their reward finally came in the FA Cup, where their seven matches in the competition ended with a 1-0 win over QPR in a final replay.
Hughton played in 37 league games and all of the cup games, making a total of 60 appearances with Steve Perryman the only outfield player to play more matches.
The Blues boss said: “As a player I remember in 1982 going through a season where it was only actually possible to play one more game than we did.
“Players played through. It was just repetition. You became so used to playing that the team shape got you through some games where you didn?t play well.
“What becomes important now is making sure those not playing regularly are training hard to keep up to speed and for those playing it is about recovery.
“By this time we aim to make sure everybody knows their job. That?s just like ‘82 and that experience helps.”
After just two points from their previous four Championship matches, there were mounting fears Blues’ gruelling schedule had caught up with them.
But they responded with a first league win in five which lifted them over Boro and back into the top six.
Nikola Zigic set the bandwagon rolling after 11 minutes with a bullet header from Chris Burke’s cross.
Boro should have levelled when Justin Hoyte’s inviting cross left Lukas Jutkiewicz with just Boaz Myhill to beat but the striker fluffed his lines.
It proved a key moment as Blues doubled their lead on 57 when Marlon King rifled in from another fine Burke delivery.
Boro were forced on the offensive but they were caught two against one three minutes later as Keith Fahey finished off a storming run with a cool finish.
Burke said: "We looked stronger and fitter than them. That showed with the result at the end.
“If we were tired, our Prozone stats would be lower, but they're not.
“I think 51 games is the most I have played in a season during my career so this is something to be proud of.”
Boro defender Tony McMahon said: It’s squeaky-bum time. There were some words exchanged in the dressing room afterwards.
“We made some points about what we need to do. We’ll stick together, we have a massive game against West Ham tomorrow.”