Birmingham City player ratings gallery v Luton - three score 5/10 but four 7/10s in 1-0 defeat
Player ratings from Birmingham City 0-1 Luton Town in the Sky Bet Championship, including three 5/10s and four 7s.
An uninspiring Birmingham City suffered a fourth successive Championship defeat on Saturday afternoon as they were beaten 1-0 by play-off chasers Luton Town. Blues defended well in the first half and perhaps looked the side with better energy in the first 45, but a sudden rise in quality from the visitors at the start of the second period propelled them to a crucial three points in the top six race. Carlton Morris’ 47th-minute header was enough to sink the hosts to their ninth league loss in 11 games.
No real control was asserted in the opening half an hour or so, with both sides playing plenty of long passes to try and work opportunities. Blues perhaps were the most creative with plenty going down the flanks, but not enough chances were crafted. There was some good work from Gary Gardner down the right in the 4th minute as he just about kept the ball in play before cutting it back to the edge of the area for Tahith Chong, but the Manchester United loanee’s effort was blocked with ease. Scott Hogan had a chance 20 or so minutes later as Lukas Jutkiewicz found the Irishman with a floated cross, but he too was unable to convert.
Luton’s biggest threat looked to be physical attacker Elijah Adebayo, who often peeled away to find space in Blues’ penalty area. There were a few occasions where the likes of Cody Drameh and Alfie Doughty nearly found Adebayo but the hosts were able to deal with the Hatters’ threat for much of the first period. Blues didn’t exactly help themselves with some really poor set piece deliveries, allowing the visitors to relax from most dead ball situations.
The second half began with a far higher tempo as Luton came out of the blocks with a renewed sense of urgency. Blues, meanwhile, fell asleep in the opening moments and it proved costly at the visitors took the lead through Carlton Morris. Chong didn’t get out to Alfie Doughty quick enough, allowing the wing-back to put in a delightful cross to the far post, where Morris was waiting to head it in past John Ruddy. Jordan Clark stung the Birmingham goalkeeper’s gloves a few minutes later with the Hatters growing in confidence from their opener.
Luton continued their dominance beyond the hour mark and Morris so nearly had a second. Pelly Mpanzu’s deep cross was met by the attacker but - much to the relief of a wrong-footed Ruddy - his header bounced just wide of the left post. John Eustace turned to the bench to introduce Alfie Chang, Juninho Bacuna and Marc Roberts with around 30 minutes to go, but one of those introductions very nearly ended in a swift farewell. Roberts was fortunate not to be sent off as he flew in with his studs up, leaving Hatters goalscorer Morris on the deck in a great deal of pain. The Luton number nine eventually got to his feet but he was lucky not to be handed a serious injury.
With 15 minutes to go, Blues finally sparked into life with their two best opportunities of the game. The first came as Juninho Bacuna’s wide free-kick was crossed in with pace and ended up bouncing around Luton’s six-yard box. Kevin Long met the original delivery before his header jotted about as if it were in a pinball machine; Birmingham were somehow unable to get a foot in and put the ball across the line as the away side eventually cleared. Just after, Hogan went agonisingly close to handing Blues an equaliser as he headed the ball onto the crossbar. Chong had put in a delightful ball into the danger area but the striker was denied by the woodwork.
From thereafter nothing of note was created as Luton got stuck in to defend their narrow victory. Eustace will be disappointed as Birmingham have now dropped down to 19th in the league standings, a worrying seven points above the drop with a game in hand for 22nd-placed Huddersfield Town. Here are our Blues player ratings from the game. See below.