Birmingham City’s hugely important clash with arch-rivals Aston Villa on Sunday was overshadowed by the incident involving Jack Grealish, but that shouldn’t have been the first thing Blues management duo Garry Monk and James Beattie discussed on Monday morning.
The hosts knew they had the opportunity to not only try and close the gap on the top six following Bristol City’s loss to Leeds United and Derby County’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday, but also to put five points between themselves and Dean Smith’s side.
While strike duo Che Adams and Lukasz Jutkiewicz were clearly always going to be key, Monk would have expected a big contribution from wingers Jota and Jacques Maghoma on the day – but it just never arrived.
The former lasted 58 minutes before being replaced by Kerim Mrabti, while Connor Mahoney came on for the latter in the 71st minute.
With Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor at full-back and with Villa having the worst defensive record in the top half of the Championship going into the weekend’s fixtures, the visitors’ defence was clearly there to be got at.
However, Jota and Maghoma simply didn’t take advantage and were largely anonymous before they were both taken off, and Monk and Beattie should have been discussing why that happened – the pair could easily have been key to a draw or win had they been in any kind of form given it was a scrappy and close affair.
Perhaps they were distracted by the Grealish incident, but Birmingham certainly can’t afford for their wide men to be struggling in the final 10 fixtures if they are to have any chance of making the play-offs, so don’t be surprised to see a change on the flanks when they host Millwall on Wednesday.