Wednesday’s hopes of Championship survival took a massive blow when we lost our relegation six-pointer 1-0 to Birmingham at Hillsborough this afternoon.
We had to play most of the second half with 10 men when Liam Shaw was sent off for a second bookable offence but we lacked the belief, intensity, urgency, energy and creativity for most of the 90 minutes against a Birmingham side who took an hour to create a chance on target and looked as poor as us for most of the game.
The defeat drops us back to 23rd place on 28 points, three behind Birmingham in the first safety zone spot, although we have played a game fewer than them. Rotherham sit one place and one point above us after their defeat at Norwich and they have a match in hand, while Wycombe stay at the bottom on 20 points following a goalless draw at Millwall.
Further above us, Coventry (34 points), Huddersfield (36) and Forest (36) all moved further away from trouble with excellent wins while Derby also sit on 34 points after their defeat at Watford last night.
We now face away games at Brentford and Luton in the next seven days with the possibility of staying up seemingly fading fast.
In a poor quality first half today, our only two chances came within four minutes of each other.
First, Callum Paterson’s 16th minute cross found Tom Lees eight yards out but his shot went straight at keeper Neil Etheridge and then Shaw volleyed over from close-in when he should have found the target.
It took Birmingham half an hour to create a decent opening, Gary Gardner heading wide when well placed. Liam Palmer then came to the rescue five minutes from the break when he blocked a diving header from Ivan Sunjic but the visitors failed to have an effort on target in the first 45.
We were dealt a big blow just five minutes into the second half when Shaw was dismissed. He had been harshly booked in the first half and was then shown a second yellow when he lunged in with a needless tackle on Maxime Colin.
Birmingham’s first effort on target came soon afterwards, Westwood saving a low angled drive from Jeremie Bela and the visitors grabbed the all-important goal on 63 minutes, Belsa’s intended shot being turned home from close range by Scott Hogan.
We showed a little more urgency late on but the only time we looked as though we might grab an equaliser came a minute from time when Jordan Rhodes’ header brought a diving save out of Etheriddge to seal our fate.
Westwood, Palmer (Dele-Bashiru 85), Lees, Dunkley (Reach 66), Harris, Shaw, Bannan, Hutchinson, Penney, Windass (Rhodes 75), Paterson (Kachunga 75). Subs. Wildsmith, Urhoghide, Borner, Pelupessy, Brown.