INSPIRATION HAS been lacking at St Andrew's recently but on this occasion the Birmingham manager, Trevor Francis, pulled an ace from the pack in the shape of Howard Forinton.
The 24-year-old has never started a game for the Blues and this was only his third appearance as a substitute, but he showed purpose and poise when he came on as a 56th minute replacement for Jon McCarthy and, with only four minutes of this previously sterile game remaining, he headed powerfully home from Gary Rowett's cross virtually to guarantee Birmingham's play-off place.
However, while the Blue majority of the ground was celebrating, the same could not be said of the visitors and, amid the euphoria, QPR still face a struggle between now and the end of the season to maintain their position in the First Division. On the basis of this performance, with only one shot on target all night, they will be in trouble right up to the bitter end. Their manager, Gerry Francis, feels they need three more points to make sure they do not fall into English football's third tier for the first time since 1967, but with only three games remaining they do not have a lot of time to scramble clear.
Birmingham were on their own poor run of form, with only three goals in their previous five games and two consecutive home defeats. That they avoided an unwelcome hat-trick was as much a result of QPR's inability in front of goal as Forinton's last-ditch winner.
The goalscorer said: "It was such a vital goal and I am chuffed to bits. I've been happy to wait and I've been fighting for my position against quality players. The cross from Gary Rowett was perfect for me."
His relieved manager said: "It was a mighty big win and essential after losing on Saturday. The more the game went on it looked like a typical performance where we dominated but didn't create enough chances."His QPR namesake, Gerry, who now has 12 players ruled out for this weekend, said: "We are bitterly disappointed."
Birmingham's nervous performance was summed up with 65 minutes gone when Lee Bradbury had his best chance of the night when put through on goal by Michael Johnson. The on-loan striker from Crystal Palace directed his shot straight at goalkeeper Lee Harper, who pushed it out.
For their part, QPR's only shot on goal came with 30 minutes gone as Ian Baraclough tried his luck from 20 yards only for Kevin Poole to dive to his left and make a good save.
Birmingham (4-4-2): Poole; Rowett, Holdsworth, Johnson, Grainger; McCarthy (Forinton, 57), Robinson, Hyde (Holland, 57), Hughes; Ndlovu, Bradbury. Substitute not used: Wassall.
Queen's Park Rangers(4-4-2): Harper; Breacker, Ready, Maddix, Baraclough; Rowland, Peacock, Heinola (Murray, 13), Jeanne (Dowie, 87); Slade, Kiwomya. Substitutes not used: Linighan.
Referee: A Butler (Sutton in Ashfield).Reuse content