Birmingham City player ratings gallery v Preston - two score 7/10 but three get 4s in 2-1 loss

Birmingham City player ratings from the 2-1 defeat to Preston North End in the Sky Bet Championship - as two score 7/0 but three get 4s.

Birmingham City fell to a fifth successive Championship defeat this afternoon as they were beaten 2-1 by Preston North End at St Andrew’s, even despite a change in formation. Supporters hoped a switch to a back-four would solidify things somewhat defensively, but the visitors were able to capitalise on yet more sloppiness from John Eustace’s side. It was a far more enjoyable occasion for this afternoon’s referee, Rebecca Welch, who became the first female to lead the officiating for a Championship fixture.

Blues, donning a special white kit in memory of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, began fairly decently for the first five minutes or so and there was a very well-observed minutes’ applause a minute later, but things fell apart soon after. Pushing on the counter attack, Preston looked dangerous and they took the lead within just 10 minutes as Hannibal Mejbri scuffed a clearance straight into the path of Ryan Ledson. The midfielder fired hard and low first-time from just outside the penalty area – the ball slipping under the grasp of a diving John Ruddy.

It didn’t take long for North End to make it two, as Blues looked lost defending a set piece in the 15th minute. Preston captain Alan Browne, unchallenged by the likes of Krystian Bielik and Maxime Colin, glanced a header across goal, finding the net from an inswinging Robbie Brady corner. Blues began to dominate possession afterward, but there was no cutting edge whatsoever before half time, much to the frustration of supporters. Club legend Malcolm Page summed it up well during a pitchside interview at the break as he said, “that was c**p. The fans deserve better than this.”

The hosts did manage to keep the ball a lot of the time in the second period, but there was not anywhere near enough urgency as Eustace’s men often pondered before resorting to long balls over the top. Preston coped well, not that they were under much pressure. Blues made a triple substitution just after the hour mark as Juninho Bacuna, George Friend and Lukas Jutkiewicz were brought on and it made quite the difference to create a tense end.

Bacuna’s energy helped pick up the pace somewhat and Maxime Colin was given more freedom to get forward as he put some balls into dangerous areas. After plenty of rather lacklustre deliveries, one finally paid off in the 83rd minute as Colin chipped the ball toward the far post and Jutkiewicz did brilliantly to rise highest. The striker headed the ball into the net from a yard or so out, giving the home side hope in the closing moments.

A couple of final opportunities bloomed, the best of the two a failed clearance falling to late substitute Jordan Graham, but he was unable to keep a first-time effort down as it sailed over the crossbar. It was too little too late from Birmingham, as Preston were able to hold on for victory in B9. Eustace and his team fall to 19th in the Championship after another painful defeat in front of 16,539 spectators. Here are our Blues player ratings from this afternoon. See below.

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