Birmingham City 0, Barnsley 2
Jose Morais is already proving to be a little ray of sunshine at Oakwell.
The positive attitude of the new head coach was apparent after the Reds’ home defeat on Tuesday night by a Burton Albion team who started that game at the bottom of the table.
Said Morais (pictured): “One win would change everything because positive moments bring more positive moments. One win will turn our form. But I also believe that the second half against Burton is a turning point.
“I am taking the positive of what I saw in the second half with the players’ attitude, character, attitude and reaction. I want to move forward and have that from the start of the game.”
He had it at Birmingham. Little surprise, therefore, that he was once again in a buoyant move after the Reds had coasted comfortably to only their second success in 19 Championship encounters.
The Portuguese told BBC Radio Sheffield: “I woke up today and said ‘the sun is shining; it’s a fantastic day; and it will continue like that’ – and luckily it did.
“So I want to say to the supporters, don’t stop believing, because we will have more games like that .”
The outlook is much bleaker for the opposition fans who chanted for their manager Steve Cotterill to be sacked following the Blues’ fourth successive defeat which saw them replace the Reds in the relegation places. One supporter even threw his season ticket at Cotterill in disgust.
This was a vital victory for the Reds who responded enthusiastically to Morais’ challenge to show their potential.
“I want to take up the belief of these players, and I believe we have enough quality to do what we have to do. The players are assimilating things in a quick way and I hope they continue to do this.”
Judging by this performance, albeit against a very poor Birmingham side, he has every justification for such optimism.
Showing five changes from the mid-week set-back the Reds took control from the first whistle and never relinquished it.
With Adam Jackson and Zeki Fryers returning after injury they were solid at the back; Gary Gardner and Joe Williams were commanding in the centre of midfield; Brad Potts was impressive in a freer role; and Oli McBurnie showed the qualities he has up front – despite failing to put convert a penalty – with two match-winning strikes.
But it was not just individually that there was an improvement, the Reds were also much better collectively.
They were bright and bubbly from the start and almost took the lead after only eight minutes when a clever back-heel from Potts set up a shooting chance for Fryers, whose first-time attempt from 25 yards flew not that far over the bar.
A counter-attack by the home team saw Nick Townsend make a remarkable double save from Jeremie Boga and Che Adams at point-blank range, but that proved a rare moment of concern for Barnsley, and their dominance paid off in the 12th minute.
Potts and Yiadom exchanged slick passes on the right; Mamadou Thiam, having started the game in place of out-of-touch Tom Bradshaw, took up the baton, crossed low with his left foot and McBurnie executed a clever hook volley into the far corner of the net to give his side the lead.
Revelling in the freedom of his particular midfield role, Potts was again involved as the visitors sought to double their advantage, fastening on to a loose ball and laying it off neatly for McBurnie, whose tame shot this time caused no problems for David Stockdale in the City goal.
Former Barnsley captain Marc Roberts came to Birmingham’s rescue with a great block challenge as Kieffer Moore threatened but then gave away a penalty with a clumsy tackle on the marauding McBurnie.
The Swansea loanee’s resulting spot-kick was not a bad one, but Stockdale’s diving save to his left was even better and City survived.
It was, however, only a temporary reprieve. Ten minutes before half-time another good cross from Thiam, with his right-foot this time, was headed back across goal by Moore and McBurnie raced in to beat the goalkeeper to the ball and toe-poke it past him.
Roberts thought he had made amends for giving away the penalty when he netted from the rebound after Townsend had saved from Boga, but the sight of a raised flag in the hands of the assistant referee turned his delight into dismay. It was simply not his day.
The Reds continued to call the tune after the break, defending with discipline and resolve and holding the promise of a further goal with swift counter-attacks.
It almost came when Moore headed goalwards from a corner by substitute Connor Mahoney, but the ball dropped narrowly wide. A good effort by Mahoney himself suffered a similar fate in the closing stages.
Birmingham threatened only once, in the 66th minute, when Sam Gallagher closed down quickly as Townsend attempted to kick clear and the ball fell to Adams, but before he had time to shoot he was foiled by a superb block tackle from Lindsay.
The Reds then eased their way to what could turn out to be a decisive double over their relegation-threatened opponents, having beaten them 2-0 at Oakwell in November.
Since then their only other win was away to Sunderland, who are now bottom of the pile.
Now they have another big chance to gain ground on their rivals at the foot of the table when they travel to meet Hull City in a re-arranged fixture on Tuesday night.
The weather forecast for the next few days makes pretty grim reading, but another three points on the east coast will make the future look even sunnier as far as Jose is concerned.
Birmingham: Stockdale; Jenkinson (Bramall, 83 mins), Roberts, Dean, Colin, Ndoye (Jota, 66 mins), Gardner, Boga, Maghema, Adams, Gallagher.
Barnsley: Townsend; Yiadom, Jackson, Lindsay, Fryers; Potts, Williams, Gardner (Pearson, 87 mins), Thiam (Mahoney, 66 mins); Moore, McBurnie (Knasmullner, 77 mins).
Bookings: Gardner, Gallagher (Birmingham).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.