John Eustace and Kevin Long in agreement over ‘pivotal’ Birmingham City issue
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Birmingham City manager John Eustace admitted he is very aware of his team’s lack of confidence after they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Luton Town on Saturday afternoon. Blues battled well but were unable to create enough clear-cut opportunities, with Scott Hogan’s woodwork hit the only real moment of promise.
Luton, as a side pushing for play-off qualification, were bound to offer a threat but Birmingham did well to absorb much of it in the first period. They looked solid defensively, even despite the injuries to Dion Sanderson and Auston Trusty, but a lapse in concentration at the start of the second period ultimately cost them the game.
Much to the disappointment of the home support, Carlton Morris scored just two minutes into the second half. Blues midfielder Tahith Chong didn’t get out to Alfie Doughty quick enough, allowing the wing-back to put in a delightful cross to the far post. Morris was there waiting to head it in past John Ruddy – the only goal of the clash.
“The way we started the second half was very disappointing,” Eustace said post-match. “The message at half time was to go out and continue the good work, play in their half and make sure we win our duels early doors. We had opportunities to stop the cross [for Luton’s goal] but the basics let us down and it was a disappointing way to start the second half.
“When we concede goals it does affect our confidence a little tiny bit - you can see that - but the lads have got nothing to fear. We’ve got a young group who want to do well for this football club. I told them to express themselves and get back in the game but we need to be better in that final third. We need to take responsibility,” Eustace said.
Central defender Kevin Long was one of the better Blues players on the day as he made plenty of crucial interventions to keep his team in the game. The 32-year-old, who signed on a free transfer from Burnley in January, has stepped in well for those missing due to injury. He - even as a strong performer - is all too aware of a lack of belief in the squad, however.
“We’re struggling with confidence a bit at the moment,” Long admitted. “The games we have won it’s when we get an early goal and confidence builds from there. We need to make sure we stick together. It’s a results business and I want to be winning games. Hopefully we can turn that around.”
Blues now have a week to prepare for their next game – a crucial one away at fellow relegation battlers Wigan Athletic. It has been a while since Birmingham have had an entire Monday to Friday period for game preparation, so there could be somewhat of an improvement as they travel north east next weekend.