Rotherham manager Paul Warne admitted his Millers men "got what they deserved" after seeing his side lose their key survival showdown with at the New York Stadium on Thursday night. The third-bottom outfit were defeated 1-0 but home goalkeeper Viktor Johansson produced a string of fine saves to prevent a wider margin of victory for the Sky Blues.
Rotherham would have leapfrogged Coventry and climbed out of the relegation zone with a victory. Instead, Warne's troops are now four points shy of safety with two games in-hand, and the Millers boss had no complaints about the final score, saying: "Coventry were significantly better than us. They started the game on the front foot and outfought us."
Warne added, "We looked a bit jaded. We will try to pick up the lads and go again Sunday but this was a blow. We have to play all these games (four in nine days). It's just unfortunate for us with the order they go in. I would have loved to have played this game with more rest. Collectively, we just weren't great. We didn't create anything and that's disappointing."
Birmingham bag vital victory
A Lukas Jutkiewicz double helped Birmingham take a huge step towards Championship safety - and register a third win in five under Lee Bowyer - as Blues bagged a 2-0 success over Stoke last Saturday. The forward produced the only goal of a drab first half and was on the spot to clatter in his fifth of the season in the second to cap a fine collective display.
Bowyer recalled Steve Seddon and Jonathan Leko - reverting to the same XI that saw off Swansea - but what followed was a cautious opening 45 minutes, lacking inspiration. Blues' defensive shape was excellent but the half-time introduction of Riley McGree for the ineffectual Alen Halilovic sparked the hosts into life, making an immediate impact.
Victory lifted Blues six points clear of the relegation zone with Bowyer saying, "That's another good three points, it's a good Stoke side. We have given ourselves a chance - that's all we can ask for." The Birmingham boss has had eight days to prepare for Sunday's showdown but doubts remain over the involvement of both Jon Toral and Scott Hogan.
Rotherham have registered a solitary success in their last 16 league meetings with Birmingham (W1-D7-L8), a 2-0 success at St Andrew's back in September 2015. The struggling Millers have failed to take top honours in each of their past seven matches when welcoming Blues (W0-D5-L2), going all the way back to October 1989 in third-tier action.
Rotherham 2.9215/8 boast the Championship's worst home return in 2020/21. The Millers have managed just W5-D3-L12 at the New York Stadium, although their results have remained reasonable when taking teams outside of the current top-nine (W11-D5-L8). Unfortunately for Paul Warne's side, fixture congestion and fatigue is a major issue.
Birmingham 2.707/4 were sleep-walking to relegation under Aitor Karanka but Lee Bowyer has inspired Blues to a W3-D1-L1 return and away from immediate danger. The visitors may have tabled only one victory in eight away from St. Andrew's (W1-D3-L4), although only Watford have conceded fewer goals on the road than the Second City guests this term.
Traditionally, six-pointers in this sort of scenario tend to be tight, attritional and low-scoring affairs and so it's no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.654/6. Under 2.5 Goals has been the right wager in 13/21 (62%) of the duos combined contests with bottom-seven outfits with four or more goals delivered in only two of those 21 tussles.
With that in mind, Rotherham's recent goalscoring woes and Birmingham's rock-solid defensive platform, I'm happy to oppose a high-scoring contest whilst keeping Blues onside. Heading to the Bet Builder, we can grab 1.758/11 on Birmingham Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals, a wager that's won in all 11 of the guests trips to teams outside the top-10.