Steve Cotterill: Birmingham City boss says Blues still face a battle against relegation

Birmingham captain Harlee Dean at least stopped his old Brentford team-mate Scott Hogan from scoring, but it was still a very disappointing day for Blues at Villa Park
Birmingham captain Harlee Dean at least stopped his old Brentford team-mate Scott Hogan from scoring, but it was still a very disappointing day for Blues at Villa Park

Birmingham City manager Steve Cotterill says he never thought Blues were free from relegation danger, despite the encouraging run of form that preceded Sunday's derby defeat by Aston Villa.

A run of four wins and just one defeat in six league games had lifted Blues four points clear of trouble.

But Sunday's defeat halved that advantage to two points going into this Saturday's home game with Millwall.

"I certainly don't think we ever thought that," Cotterill told BBC WM.

"When we have gone on a run, while everyone else has thought that, we never did.

"Nothing has changed on the training ground as regards thinking all of a sudden we are out of it, or stepping off the pedal or anything like that. And we didn't need the reminder.

"But you can't afford to have anyone missing when you come to a place like Villa Park.

"It was a genuine lack of belief against a really good side. We lacked a lot of belief. It looked like the game was too big for some of our younger players."

No Ndoye for Millwall match

Cotterill admits that he cannot yet know what effect Sunday's derby defeat will have on his team over their final 15 games of the Championship campaign.

"We will only know that by the time we play next weekend's game and the games thereafter," he added.

But he will have one player less to pick from this Saturday as midfielder Cheikh Ndoye has been handed an automatic one-match suspension for his second booking red card following a late tangle with fellow midfielder Mile Jedinak and Villa captain John Terry.

All Cheikh Ndoye's private dance with John Terry earned him was a red card from referee Peter Bankes
All Cheikh Ndoye's private dance with John Terry earned him was a red card from referee Peter Bankes

"It looked like there was more than Cheikh Ndoye involved," said Cotterill. "Even though he is a big, strong boy, he is not volatile. He is not aggressive in that manner.

"In his broken English he said that somebody had grabbed hold of him. Whether he pushed him away. I don't know."

Analysis

BBC WM's Richard Wilford

Defeat down the road in Aston was always going to feel like more than just a simple setback to Birmingham supporters and social media is spinning with angry Blues fans looking for people to blame - largely Steve Cotterill.

The key for the manager and the squad is not to dwell on a miserable day at Villa Park, but to revert to the form that had grasped 13 points from their previous six league outings, dragging them out of the Championship's bottom three in the process.

They are likely to need at least five more wins to secure another season in the division and Cotterill is understandably keen to emphasise that the job is nowhere near being done just yet. How they react to this setback when they face Millwall could be critical to their run-in.

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