Zigic's first goal for Birmingham 'can be big for him' says McLeish

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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish hopes Nikola Zigic's first goal in Birmingham colours will provide just the tonic for the striker and help him find his goalscoring touch. The Serbia international, a summer signing from Valencia for a fee believed to be in the region of £6m, finally opened his account for Birmingham in Tuesday night's 3-1 Carling Cup third-round triumph over MK Dons at St Andrew's.

Zigic, who stands at 6ft 8in, brought down a neat looped pass from Jean Beausejour before coolly flicking the ball past goalkeeper David Martin while under pressure from Dons defenders. McLeish admits the towering frontman is still adapting to life in England and the demands of the Premier League, where he is finding more long balls than usual coming his way.

But the Scot hopes by opening his account – and getting more crucial match fitness under his belt – he will gain the necessary belief to push on and show why he was seen as an important addition to Birmingham's ranks.

"Let's hope that goal will be big for him," said McLeish. "He's still adjusting to the pace of the game, he has admitted that it's quite quick and even the aerial stuff is new to him as such. You wouldn't believe that, I know the big man is 6ft 8in, but he would normally do two or three aerial jousts in the games in Europe and quite often he's been on the end of those jousts to score vital goals for Racing Santander, Valencia and Serbia.

"So he's been taken a little bit by surprise by how many times it comes up to him in the air, so that's a little bit different and he's having to adjust to that. But I hope that [goal] will do him good.

"He could have had a hat-trick to be honest, he maybe should have pulled the trigger in the first half and the position he got into at the back post [in the second half], we would like to see him get into those positions more."

McLeish is today waiting for news of how long he can expect to be without James McFadden. The Scotland international underwent surgery last night to repair the knee ligament injury he sustained in training last Friday and should now find out the length of his rehabilitation.

McLeish will at least be pleased with the replacements at his disposal with fellow midfielders Alexander Hleb and Craig Gardner scoring either side of Zigic to hand Blues a quickfire 3-0 lead in a devastating four-minute spell.

McLeish is pleased with how Hleb has done since arriving at St Andrew's. "He's fitted in well, there's no airs and graces about him, he's quite a character and the players have taken to him."

Birmingham's League One opponents refused to lie down on Tuesday and got their just rewards 10 minutes from time through Aaron Wilbraham's consolation.

Dons did the Football League proud with their passing approach and never-say-die spirit, and manager Karl Robinson believes if they can show the same qualities in their battle for promotion then they will not go far wrong.

"The players gave themselves and the football club credit – the passion we showed, the enjoyment and love for the game shone," he said. "If you keep doing what you're doing and keep playing football then you won't go far wrong.

"I'm just happy, when we conceded three goals a lot of teams would have crumbled – and I don't think that was the case with us. We kept moving the ball and kept doing the right things. I want to stress that if our players keep doing that at our level then we can cause an awful lot of damage. It's important to keep believing that we're doing the right things."

The new Aston Villa manager, Gérard Houllier, has still to sign his three-year contract with the midlands club. But the former Liverpool manager insists there is nothing to worry about and it is only a matter of time before he puts pen to paper.

Houllier took charge of Villa for the first time in last night's Carling Cup clash with Blackburn. When asked if he had signed the contract, Houllier said: "No, not yet but it is OK. The word is more important than the rest. You mean physically? No, but don't be worried. This is not important – I think at Liverpool, I didn't sign until November or December."