Birmingham interim manager Gary Rowett was left frustrated after his side were held to a 0-0 draw at Rotherham.

The result edged the Blues two points clear of the Championship relegation zone but it was a missed opportunity to move closer to safety against the already-relegated Rotherham.

Steve Evans was back in the home dugout following his shock midweek return following the sacking of Leam Richardson and he will have been pleased with the spirited display which kicked off his second stint as Millers’ boss.

Play was stopped for more than half an hour after nine minutes of the first period when referee Keith Stroud was alerted to a medical emergency in the home stand, with the supporter being taken to hospital after receiving treatment.

The game lacked quality following the restart but burst into life in the closing stages, with Birmingham’s Jay Stansfield having an effort ruled out for offside.

Rowett said: “It was an attritional game. The way that Rotherham are going to be set up, you know they’re going to be very direct and play for second balls and make it difficult to get out.

“I thought it was difficult to find any rhythm. It was a tough game.

“The first half was a non-event. Second half was a little bit better, we just needed those moments of quality to open the game up. Sometimes we did that without finding an end to it and sometimes we lacked composure.”

On Stansfield’s disallowed goal, Rowett added: “There is a player in or around the goalkeeper. There is about 15 but one is in an offside position. I don’t think he saves it anyway. It does not impact the keeper’s vision. He hits it so hard and low and wide of the keeper that he isn’t going to save it.”

Birmingham lead third-bottom Huddersfield by two points and they travel to face the Terriers next weekend.

“I don’t think you can get any bigger at this stage of the season,” Rowett added.

“Every game is massive and every game is one where you don’t want to waste an opportunity. We just could not quite find that winning goal today.”

Rotherham boss Steve Evans is glad to be back at the New York Stadium.

He said: “It was everything you would have wanted. It was exciting. It was a fantastic welcome. How I got received will go down as another wonderful memory at this place.

“That is how we play. We played against a team fighting for their lives and against top players.

“The boys have gone through the pain barrier. All we can do is freshen them up and get them ready for Bristol City and Cardiff.

“The break in play changed the momentum of the game because they were under the cosh. It was like starting afresh. It gave the Birmingham lads an opportunity to reset.

“We asked the boys to work incredibly hard. From a neutral point of view a draw was probably a fair result.”

Birmingham edged another point clear of the Championship relegation zone after being held 0-0 by already relegated Rotherham in a game which was held up by a medical emergency in the stands.

The Blues were left frustrated by Rotherham, who had Steve Evans back in the dugout after his shock return from Stevenage midweek, and the stalemate left the visitors just two points clear of the bottom three with two games to play.

Birmingham had a chance within the first two minutes when Keshi Anderson burst down the left flank and found Tyler Roberts at the backpost but his volley was off target.

The match was stopped after nine minutes due to a medical emergency in the home stand, with paramedics rushed over to give treatment to a supporter.

Referee Keith Stroud took the players off the field for more than 20 minutes and after the supporter was taken to hospital, the game resumed around 3.45pm.

Anderson was again causing problems after the restart and he got a shot away which Viktor Johansson had to kick away for a corner.

Rotherham’s Jordan Hugill then headed tamely at John Ruddy after Sebastian Revan had picked him out with a left-wing cross.

The Millers were hit by two first-half injuries, with Cafu and Peter Kioso both having to be replaced.

A strike from Oliver Rathbone from the edge of the box looked to be goal-bound but Krystian Bielik bravely put his head in the way.

Birmingham brought Koji Miyoshi on to liven up their attack at the break and he almost made an instant impact when he cut inside and saw his shot diverted wide.

A long ball to Jay Stansfield almost led to an opportunity but his touch was too heavy and it ran through into Johansson’s grasp.

Stansfield thought he had given Birmingham the lead when he lashed in from Paik Seung-ho’s free-kick but it was ruled out for offside by the assistant referee.

Arvin Appiah had a good opportunity to strike at the other end after he burst forward but his low shot was clung on to by Ruddy.

Scott Hogan was brought on for the closing stages by interim boss Gary Rowett and he almost got on the end of Lee Buchanan’s near-post cross.

Rotherham threatened to nick the points when the ball fell to Sam Nombe in the box but the record signing hooked over the chance.

Miyoshi should really have grabbed the winner when he was found by Bielik on goal but his weak effort was kept out by Johansson.

Birmingham survived a scare in added on time as Revan’s volley was beaten away by Ruddy.

Coventry manager Mark Robins wrote off his side’s Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes after their 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Birmingham.

An own goal by Bobby Thomas in the 12th minute and strikes from Ivan Sunjic and Jay Stansfield condemned the visitors to a third loss in four games.

Coupled with Norwich’s 1-0 win at Preston, it left the Sky Blues in eighth place, eight points adrift of the top six with four games left.

They have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United next weekend and next play in the Championship on April 24 when they host Hull.

“We had to pick points up in three out of the four games we have lost and you can’t do that if you are realistically challenging, so it’s massively disappointing,” said Robins.

“We have given ourselves a mountain to climb. We could be 12 points adrift (of the top six) by the time we next play (in the league) and Norwich are too good.

“We didn’t start at all. Initially we had a couple of shots dragged wide, but they were first to the ball in every challenge. Every first contact they seemed to win.

“It looked like a lethargic performance and people made poor choices and it cost us three goals.

“They took the lead from an own goal where we didn’t get close enough to the attacker (Keshi Anderson), then for the second one, (goalkeeper) Brad Collins was unsighted.

“For the third goal we got dragged all over the place because we weren’t talking and that smacks of fatigue.”

The victory was Birmingham’s biggest win since October – and only their second in 11 games – and it moved them out of the relegation zone after Bristol City denied Huddersfield victory at the death.

Blues led when Anderson’s cross hit Thomas and deflected in at the near post.

Sunjic doubled the hosts’ lead with a rasping low drive that caught Collins flat-footed after a corner and Stansfield made it 3-0 when he clipped the ball past Collins following a superb diagonal run behind the defence which was spotted by Tyler Roberts on the left.

The closest Coventry came to scoring came in the 20th minute when Haji Wright’s lob hit the bar after keeper John Ruddy headed away a clearance.

Birmingham interim manager Gary Rowett challenged his side to repeat the performance for the next three games to avoid relegation.

“That was a much better performance and it had a lot more of what we expect and, lo and behold, you get your rewards,” he said.

“You might not find yourself solid defensively, but you find yourself scoring and creating chances.

“Some of the senior lads held the others to account in midweek (after a 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff) and everyone has taken that on board, which is what should happen. I thought we showed it.

“Now we’ve got to replicate that in the last three games.”

Rowett also praised the positive impact of the 26,811 crowd.

“It’s been no coincidence we’ve had five full houses this season and won all five games,” he added.

“If that doesn’t show the power of our fan base, nothing will. They were brilliant – the atmosphere was incredible.

“It was nice to reward that loyalty with a performance that had a similar edge.”

Michael Van Gerwen ended Luke Littler’s Premier League winning run to claim victory on night 11 in Birmingham.

Littler had been targeting a third consecutive nightly victory following back-to-back successes in Belfast and Manchester, which put him top of the table.

The 17-year-old had looked to be building up another head of steam after earlier edging out Rob Cross in a last-leg decider and then holding off a stirring fightback from world champion Luke Humphries to win their latest epic tussle 6-5 – landing five maximums with a match-average of just over 107.

Dutchman Van Gerwen, though, capitalised on a low-key start to the final, before eventually breaking twice to close out a 6-3 win and rekindle his own play-off ambitions.

Van Gerwen, the defending Premier League champion, had avoided another early exit after coming from behind to beat Nathan Aspinall in his first match and then eased past Michael Smith 6-4.

Littler remains top of the table with 26 points, two clear of Humphries, while Van Gerwen sits third on 22 and Aspinall fourth.

Van Gerwen hopes he can now head into night 12 in Rotterdam with renewed confidence.

“I have made it hard for myself to be fair,” the Dutchman said on Sky Sports, “But more importantly it is about how you bounce back.

“I know the last few weeks have not been great for me, but to come back with a win tonight feels good for me.”

Van Gerwen added: “I had to go really deep tonight and at the end, Luke and I neither really played our A-game, but when you win nights like this, it is not always about who is playing well – sometimes it is who can handle it.

“I had a struggling few weeks, but to bounce back with a win like this gives me confidence of course.

“People will write you off when you off when you lose, that is how things go, but I believed in my own opportunities and you need to make sure you keep your mind focused.

“I know there is more to come – the fighting spirit in my body is still there. I need to make sure I am good for next week.”

In the night’s opening quarter-final at the Utilita Arena, Humphries – who enjoyed European Tour success at the recent German Darts Grand Prix in Munich – came from 4-1 down to claim five straight legs and beat Peter Wright, who remains cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

Littler had been trailing 3-1 and then survived a match dart as he eventually battled past Cross, before former world champion Smith put last week’s defeat by Gerwyn Price behind him with a 6-3 win over the Welshman.

Van Gerwen landed an impressive 152 checkout as he came from 4-2 behind to take control of his quarter-final against Aspinall, going on to close out a much-needed 6-4 win.

Interim Birmingham boss Gary Rowett rued a missed opportunity to move out the Championship relegation zone after the Blues were beaten 1-0 at home by Cardiff.

Rowett’s side would have moved out the bottom three with a point but Josh Bowler’s 65th-minute goal earned Cardiff victory at St Andrew’s.

The result leaves Blues 23rd in the table with just four games of the season remaining.

“When you have an opportunity, you have to do everything you can to take that opportunity and we just didn’t do that,” Rowett said.

“We petered out with a little bit of a whimper and it’s incredibly frustrating and frustrating for the fans who came out in good numbers.

“I thought we started OK and I thought we had some good control and I felt we got into some good areas without finding the quality to open them up.

“We’ve given goals away far too easily, we’ve conceded soft goals, tonight we had a chance to react to their goal and we didn’t react.

“We lacked character in that second half and how the game ended.

“We know we’ve got another tough game on Saturday and we need to show a little bit more urgency, fight and character.”

Cardiff, who remain in 11th position, lost midfielder Aaron Ramsey to injury.

The Wales midfielder started his first match for the Bluebirds since September but was substituted at half-time because of a hamstring problem.

Manager Erol Bulut said: “He had an injury with the hamstring so we hope it is not something big and we will see after a scan.”

Bulut was happy with his team’s display against a difficult opponent.

“It was a good game from our side, of course it was not an easy game because Birmingham are fighting for points,” Bulut said.

“It was a strong game from us against the ball and we could have made one or two more goals if we would have finalised our passes or the last shot but in general, I am satisfied with the performance of the team.

“We now have four more games and I hope it can be the same like today.”

Bulut believes it has been a satisfying season for the Bluebirds, but inconsistencies have been their downfall.

“You see where Cardiff City was last season and where they are now and how we have progressed, I am satisfied with the season and the performance of many players, but it could be better,” Bulut said.

“We have not had the consistency and so maybe we could be closer to the play-offs.”

Birmingham missed the chance to climb out of the Championship relegation zone as Josh Bowler’s 65th-minute goal snatched victory for Cardiff and left the Blues a point from safety.

Gary Rowett’s side had the opportunity to win successive home matches and jump above Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield in the table, but Bowler’s fourth goal of the season instead left them second bottom with just four games to play.

The home side had just one shot on target in the match as they struggled to create many clear-cut chances against their mid-table opponents.

Birmingham chairman Tom Wagner was in attendance after the news on Tuesday that the club plan to leave St Andrew’s for a new stadium by August 2029.

He witnessed an uneventful start to the game before Blues midfielder Juninho Bacuna’s effort deflected behind for a corner after 10 minutes.

That sparked the game into life as Koji Miyoshi’s low strike hit a post for the hosts before Cardiff’s Yakou Meite tested John Ruddy, with the goalkeeper gathering the shot at the second attempt.

Miyoshi’s reverse pass to Bacuna engineered another chance for Birmingham but the midfielder’s effort was comfortably claimed by Ethan Horvath.

Ruddy then had to make another save to deny Meite. Karlan Grant charged up the pitch and Meite took the ball off the winger on the edge of the box and struck a powerful effort on goal, which the goalkeeper pushed clear.

The hosts came close at the other end soon after when Jordan James curled a first-time strike narrowly wide of both the stretching arm of Horvath and the post.

Birmingham started the second half brightly but lacked a cutting edge in the final third.

A well-drilled Cardiff outfit was frustrating the hosts and the Bluebirds looked happy to play on the counter-attack.

That plan duly worked when Bowler fired past Ruddy at his near post from half-time substitute Rubin Colwill’s cross to give them the lead.

The pressure intensified on Blues to get a goal and Rowett made a triple substitution to try and change his sides fortunes, but Ruddy had to deny Grant to stop the visitors doubling their lead.

Grant then saw an effort deflect just over the crossbar.

Rowett threw on two more subs in the closing stages as his side chased a late leveller, but Cardiff held on for all three points.

Leicester manager Enzo Maresca paid tribute to his team’s character after seeing them regain control of the race for automatic promotion from the Championship.

Stephy Mavididi’s 87th-minute header, after Jay Stansfield had earlier cancelled out Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s opener, saw the Foxes beat Birmingham 2-1 and take full advantage of defeats for Ipswich and Leeds to regain first place.

Despite dominating for long periods, against opponents who now find themselves inside the relegation zone with only five matches remaining, Maresca’s men struggled to translate their superiority into a commanding lead following Dewsbury-Hall’s clinical 28th-minute finish from Patson Daka’s assist.

Indeed, when Leicester goalkeeper Mads Hermansen gifted Blues a route back into the game, it appeared as if the visitors would claim an unlikely point in their battle for survival.

But after seeing Stansfield charge down the Dane’s attempted clearance on the stroke of half-time, Maresca’s men held their nerve with Mavididi guiding substitute Yunus Akgun’s centre past John Ruddy and into the back of the net.

“I just told the players I’m very happy, especially for the way we came through,” Maresca said.

“We performed well throughout the whole of the game. Unfortunately we conceded right at the end of the first half but carried on in exactly the same way in the second.

“There can be a temptation to try and go long ball but we resisted that temptation.

“The big thing for us is to manage the emotions. That is the most important thing at this stage of the season.

“When we come to this point, things can move around a lot. Positions can change a lot. So it is important just to keep that focus, dominate the transitions, and keep doing the same thing. Show belief in what you are doing. We did that out there.”

With the Foxes returning to action at Millwall on Tuesday, Maresca added: “We just need to go game by game now. That has to be the mentality. We are not looking beyond that.

“We simply focus on the next one and go from there. Then, when the season is over, that is when we look at our position.”

Rowett, overseeing Blues for the third time since being placed in interim charge, cut a frustrated but defiant figure afterwards.

“It was tough to take, especially when you get to that time,” he said.

“But Leicester are an incredible side and they make the pitch so wide. There was some last-ditch defending and yes, there were times when we were thinking we’d done well to keep them at bay. But we just could not hold on and that is disappointing.

“There were periods when we did put them under pressure. That was when the stadium felt like a different place. But when you press them, they find those spaces and can play through you. That’s what really good sides do, they find ways and solutions.”

Despite their perilous predicament, Rowett is still backing Blues to haul themselves out of trouble.

“Our season is not going to be defined by taking points at Leicester away,” he added.

“It is going to be defined by our home games. It’s up to us and I think we’ve got enough quality in the group.

“What you have to do, at this stage of the season, is perform under pressure. For me that pressure is a privilege.”

Former Birmingham manager Gary Rowett has returned to the club as interim boss after Tony Mowbray was granted extended medical leave.

Ex-Sunderland boss Mowbray succeeded Wayne Rooney at St Andrews in January, but a month later he temporarily stepped down from his role to undergo medical treatment, with a view to returning in approximately six to eight weeks.

But Mowbray will now be absent until the start of pre-season, paving the way for Rowett to return to the club where he had a two-year spell in charge between 2014 and 2016.

Rowett left his new club’s Championship relegation rivals Millwall in October and takes over a Blues side only outside the bottom three on goal difference with eight games remaining.

Mowbray played a role in Rowett’s appointment.

Birmingham co-owner and chairman of the board Tom Wagner said in a statement on the club website: “Based on Tony’s decision to take some additional time away, we agreed it is in the club’s best interests to appoint Gary Rowett to lead the team forward from the touchline for the final eight games of the season. 

“Gary is an experienced leader and has our full support.”

Assistant Mark Venus will also temporarily leave the club and return with Mowbray, while first-team coaches Ashley Cole and Peter Shuttleworth as well as goalkeeper coach Maik Taylor will remain in their positions.

Rowett will be on the touchline for Birmingham’s clash against fellow strugglers QPR next week.

Watford interim manager Tom Cleverley thinks there is a bright future for the club after the Hornets secured a 1-0 victory over Birmingham.

Cleverley was announced as interim boss after the sacking of Valerien Ismael and got off to a winning start thanks to Emmanuel Dennis’ 44th-minute goal.

Dennis pounced on a mistake from the hosts to fire the ball past goalkeeper John Ruddy for what ultimately proved the match-winner at St Andrew’s.

Cleverley said the victory was what he dreamt of in the build-up to the game but praised Birmingham for their performance.

“It’s exactly what the doctor ordered and it’s what I dreamt of last night,” Cleverley said.

“It wasn’t as perfect as it sounds, and we will address some of the problems we faced but I think if the players play with that much desire and heart to stop the ball going in our goal, and we know the quality our team possesses, there’s a bright future in us.

“I came to their game Tuesday and saw them in quite a flat way but today I thought they were excellent, so credit to us for winning the game.”

Cleverley praised his back four in being an integral part of claiming the three points and striker Dennis for scoring the winning goal.

“I can’t praise the back four enough, two academy products, and (Ryan) Porteous was the old head of the four and Dan (Bachmann) was called on a few times, a few more than I like and that’s my job to organise that better,” Cleverley added.

“The main thing today was the result and that back four deserves a big pat on the back.

“We know that (Emmanuel) Dennis has that explosive burst so as a defender you may think you are comfortable on the ball but then he appears from nowhere.

“We spoke to the players, we thought we’d create chances through high regains today and we didn’t win as many balls as we liked but the one that mattered went in.”

Birmingham assistant manager Mark Venus said he could not fault the effort of his players.

“I can’t protect the players for Tuesday, but I can protect them today, I thought they gave everything on the pitch,” Venus said.

“We talk about missing a little bit of quality, that was evident again today, but as far as energy, intensity, desire, purpose and team spirit, that was all there today.”

Venus says his players need be more ruthless in front of goal as they failed to score for a third successive league match.

“We have to finish better, let’s see it as it is, we have to finish better and we have to put the ball in the net,” Venus added.

“We have to raise our quality, we have to do better all those things, all the other things were all there today.”

Tom Cleverley celebrated his first match in interim charge of Watford with three points thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win against strugglers Birmingham.

Emmanuel Dennis’ 44th-minute strike, following an error from the home side, proved enough for Watford to leave St Andrew’s with maximum points.

The Hornets steer further clear of the relegation zone and leave Birmingham embedded in the battle to stay up.

Blues made a bright start to the match, applying early pressure on the Watford defence, and Koji Miyoshi dragged wide the hosts’ first chance of the match.

Ethan Laird then narrowly flicked over Juninho Bacuna’s near-post corner before Bacuna found space in the penalty area and had a goal-bound shot blocked.

An energised Birmingham side continued to press for the breakthrough and Bacuna again had a shot blocked inside the penalty area when well placed.

Watford managed to momentarily threaten the Blues goal when Tom Dele-Bashiru curled a left-footed effort over the crossbar.

A second corner fashioned another chance for the hosts as Daniel Bachmann was forced to dive across his goal line and claim an Emanuel Aiwu header.

Birmingham were the masters of their own downfall as they gifted Watford the opening goal.

Aiwu could not control Cody Drameh’s throw-in across his own penalty area and Dennis got the better of the defender before finishing ruthlessly past John Ruddy.

The goal lifted the visitors and Dennis forced Ruddy into a smart low save to deny the striker a quick second goal before half-time.

Watford started the second half the brighter of the two sides and Lee Buchanan had to clear a Mattie Pollock effort off the line before Yaser Asprilla’s shot was cleared over the crossbar.

Birmingham managed to get back into the ascendency and Ivan Sunjic had a good chance to draw the hosts level.

Jay Stansfield drove forward and Sunjic picked up the loose ball in the penalty area but sliced a shot wide from close range.

Blues continued to search for an equaliser and Bachmann made an excellent save to beat away Miyoshi’s drive at goal after an initial effort from Aiwu was blocked.

Substitute Vakoun Bayo nearly made an instant impact for the visitors as his stretching shot flashed across Ruddy’s goal and wide.

Miyoshi spurned another opportunity for the hosts as they continued to apply the pressure on the Watford defence.

Tyler Roberts had a late chance on goal, but Bachmann got down well to save and preserve the points for the visitors.

Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick admitted Riley McGree’s stunning winner was good enough to win any game and was the “wow” moment from their 1-0 win at St. Andrew’s.

McGree’s 17th-minute goal was his sixth of the season and first since September, giving Boro their third straight win.

The Teessiders are up to ninth and five points off the final play-off position.

“I don’t think you expect that but it was a pure strike from Riley,” said Carrick.

“He’s capable of those moments and he’s had one or two of those ‘wow’ moments with goals he’s scored like that.

“It was a hell of a strike and fitting to win any game. He’s capable of that and, like some of the boys, capable of even better.

“I thought there were moments of real quality in the game and that was the standout one.

“Hopefully he’s coming into a real vein of form when we need him.”

McGree’s celebrations were muted out of respect to the club where he spent 15 months on loan across two seasons from October 2020 to the end of 2021.

“Knowing Riley it was down to that. He’s down to earth and humble and very respectful,” added Carrick.

“I didn’t realise that but if he didn’t celebrate, I can understand that.”

Carrick was non-committal on Boro’s hopes of making the top six, with Blackburn at home on Saturday.

“Let’s see where we go – we’ve had a good week,” he said.

“We were the only game so we knew we could make a bit of a jump, so we made the most of it.

“Just because we won doesn’t mean the next game is going to naturally end in a win. We need to start again and prepare for that.”

McGree lashed an unstoppable left-foot drive into the top corner from 25 yards after Alex Pritchard’s pass was easily cut out by Luke Ayling.

Birmingham have now gone five games without a win and are just a point above the relegation zone after losing their match in hand.

Interim manager Mark Venus admitted the absence of boss Tony Mowbray for medical treatment was being felt deeply.

“He’s making good progress and we can’t get him back quickly enough and hopefully he will be back in the future,” said Venus.

“We’ve missed him immensely and enormously. He’s a leader, a motivator and a driver and I think undoubtedly when you have someone like him at the front, you miss him.

“We have not got enough leaders in the club. But we have to work with what we’ve got and we have to do better and get through this.

“It’s a lack of quality that we all have to address.”

Riley McGree returned to haunt his old loan club Birmingham with a stunning goal as Middlesbrough won 1-0 at St. Andrew’s.

Attacking midfielder McGree, 25, put Boro ahead in the 17th minute after a mistake by Alex Pritchard in a game of few clear-cut chances.

The result heaps pressure on City, who have now gone five games without a win and are only out of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone by a point after their match in hand.

City have not won since manager Tony Mowbray – a much-loved former Middlesbrough player and manager – has been away from his daily duties for medical treatment.

Both sets of fans chanted his name but Birmingham looked in need of the 60-year-old’s guidance as Boro made it three wins in a row.

Birmingham had the first chance when Pritchard attempted a 40-yard chip over goalkeeper Seny Dieng but his ambitious effort drifted wide.

Paddy McNair fired over a long-range rising effort for Middlesbrough after Emmanuel Latte Lath was denied from point-blank range by goalkeeper John Ruddy.

But a mistake by Pritchard led to Boro taking a 17th-minute lead.

The former Brentford and Sunderland midfielder’s pass was easily cut out by Luke Ayling. He found McGree, who lashed an unstoppable left-foot drive into the top corner of the net from 25 yards.

McGree, who spent 15 months on loan at Blues from October 2020 to the end of 2021, celebrated in understated fashion against his old club.

Things went from bad to worse for City two minutes later when centre-back Marc Roberts went off injured to be replaced by Cody Drameh.

Ayling tried to make it 2-0 after cutting inside and curling goalwards but his attempt was straight at Ruddy.

Pritchard sliced horribly wide on the angle as neither he nor Koji Miyoshi seemed to want to take responsibility to shoot.

If Birmingham’s struggles were not summed up by that lack of confidence, they were underlined when no one challenged Latte Lath from Lukas Engel’s throw-in and the striker fired just wide.

Matt Clarke sent a bullet header wide from a corner as the visitors continued to look the more dangerous side.

Birmingham replaced the out-of-sorts Miyoshi with Juninho Bacuna at half-time but they continued to look unconvincing.

There was a four-minute stoppage before the hour mark after referee Andy Davies went off injured, with fourth official Jeremy Simpson taking over the whistle.

The lively Latte Lath only just failed to get enough contact on an up-and-under, with the sliced effort flying over.

Tottenham loanee Japhet Tanganga is turning himself into a hero under Millwall manager Neil Harris after his late header snatched a crucial victory over fellow Sky Bet Championship strugglers Birmingham.

It was a second goal in Lions colours for Tanganga, 24, who scored the first goal of his senior career in Harris’ first game back in charge at Southampton two weeks ago.

Millwall have now won three of their four games under Harris, who has quickly turned around their form to open up a five-point gap between them and the relegation zone.

Harris said: “Japh’s got great pedigree, he’s got a great CV in terms of games at the top level and playing in Europe, and things like that.

“It’s slightly different here for a centre-half and sometimes you have to be a different player here, and the reason I’m at the football club is to try and teach the players what a Millwall player looks like, whether that’s a goalkeeper or a centre-half or a centre-forward.

“All I said to Japh was – not complicated his game – just to make your decisions and I’ll support you, but you can be as aggressive as you like.

“A couple of his tackles were a little bit dubious here against Watford and away at Southampton in the first five minutes, but he shows that he’s buying into it.

“Ultimately, he’s headed the ball a lot (in both boxes) and to be a good Millwall centre-half you have to do that.”

Millwall started the better side, with Birmingham goalkeeper John Ruddy having to make good saves to deny George Honeyman and Jake Cooper in the first 20 minutes.

Jay Stansfield was then denied by Matija Sarkic just before half-time and hit a great chance wide early in the second half.

He then felt he should have been awarded a penalty after 63 minutes when Millwall’s Joe Bryan appeared to hold him back from Juninho Bacuna’s corner.

The Lions wildly celebrated when their winner came in the 90th minute as Tanganga rose to head in George Saville’s corner.

Birmingham remain only one point above the bottom three and caretaker boss Mark Venus has just one point from four games since taking the reins after manager Tony Mowbray temporarily stepped aside for medical reasons.

Venus, whose side could drop below third-from-bottom Huddersfield if they beat West Brom on Sunday, said on the Blues’ penalty shout: “I don’t want to sit here and pick holes in officials.

“They are what they are in this country and I’m sure everyone has their own opinion of them.

“Everyone has their own opinion of what happened, the incident, and they can make their own mind up.

“I think in the second half we got on top.

“I think in the first half we were too timid, we didn’t influence, we didn’t hurt their goal enough and I think in the second half we had a lot more purpose, more intensity.

“We took the game to them and we had some opportunities to hit the target, to score, to shoot, and we squandered them, really.

“I think they’ve got the stomach for the fight – they showed that in the second half.

“I think they just have to learn to do the basics a bit better and learn to make the right decisions.”

Japhet Tanganga headed in a 90th-minute winner as Millwall snatched a vital 1-0 victory over fellow Sky Bet Championship strugglers Birmingham.

The Lions have won three of their four games since Neil Harris returned to the club for a second spell as manager, although they had to withstand some heavy pressure from the Blues in the second half at The Den.

But a dogged display was eventually rewarded as Millwall opened up a five-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone and left Birmingham still just one point above the bottom three.

Millwall had the game’s first big chance in the 11th minute when George Honeyman played a one-two with Duncan Watmore to go through on goal, but his attempted dinked finish was blocked by John Ruddy.

It came in the middle of a good spell for the Lions, with the Birmingham goalkeeper and captain again coming to his side’s rescue when he clawed away an effort from opposing skipper Jake Cooper.

Ruddy was fortunate, however, when he was beaten to the ball, following a ricochet off Michael Obafemi, by Watmore whose header dropped comfortably wide.

Another Birmingham header then went unpunished when a loose headed clearance by Marc Roberts dropped for Zian Flemming, who could only shoot tamely at Ruddy from outside the area.

It took the Blues 41 minutes to muster a chance of their own when Koji Miyoshi’s through ball played in Jay Stansfield and his shot from a tricky angle needed tipping away by Matija Sarkic.

Another opening for the visitors quickly followed when Alex Pritchard sent an effort wide from just outside the box as neither team could break the deadlock before half-time.

Having finally played themselves into the game towards the end of the first half, it was Birmingham who had the first opening after the restart as Lee Buchanan sent a rising shot wide.

Another good opportunity for Stansfield then came and went when he shot wide from inside the area after his initial shot from Juninho Bacuna’s cross had been blocked.

The Blues were then left furious when they weren’t awarded a penalty in the 63rd minute when Stansfield appeared to be held back from Bacuna’s corner by Millwall’s Joe Bryan.

The visitors continued to dominate the second-half proceedings, with Stansfield shooting off-target again from a presentable shooting position.

From nowhere, Millwall found a second wind and finally had another chance of their own when Flemming’s long throw ran for George Saville, who headed over with 15 minutes remaining.

Just when it looked as though the match would end in stalemate, the Lions snatched all three points when Tanganga rose to head in Saville’s corner and spark wild celebrations from the home supporters.

Mark Venus hopes Birmingham’s 1-1 draw at play-off-chasing Hull can act as “a springboard” in their battle against relegation.

Substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz’s late header cancelled out Ozan Tufan’s first-half goal to move Blues one point clear of the Sky Bet Championship drop zone.

Venus, still assisting for the unwell Tony Mowbray, said: “Hull are a very good team and they are, of course, not in the top six after 35 games for no good reason.

“But we stuck at it and kept going, which was great to see.

“They obviously had a lot of possession, which we expected, but we also caused them a few problems and I felt we deserved a point in the end.

“This now has to be a springboard for the rest of the season.”

Birmingham looked in big trouble when Tufan scored at the back post on 25 minutes after Fabio Carvalho’s corner was flicked on by Jacob Greaves.

Tufan’s final touch appeared to come off his left hand but the goal was given.

The Turkey international nearly doubled Hull’s lead after 40 minutes when his strike from distance was expertly pawed on to the left post by John Ruddy.

The hosts dominated for most of the second half, but they were obsessed by trying to score a perfect second goal when a more direct approach could have put the game out of sight.

And they were punished after 82 minutes when substitute Alex Pritchard sent over a lovely cross that was powerfully headed home by Jutkiewicz.

Venus said: “It (Tuzan’s goal) looks handball to me, but maybe the officials were not in a position to give it.

“I just feel, at the moment, that things are going a little bit against us in terms of decisions, but hopefully we can get a few more in our favour going forwards for the rest of the season.

“We’ve had some really tough fixtures that have stretched us to the limit so to come here and get something, in a game that teams in Hull’s position usually win, was great.

“We have to build on this now and move forwards, but we need everybody with us as we’ve got a big task ahead.”

Hull are unbeaten in six and remain in the play-offs, but head coach Liam Rosenior was unhappy that his players could not convert their superiority into more goals.

He said: “Some of the control, some of the areas we get into and the dominance – and we come away with a point? I’m very angry and frustrated.

“I keep saying the same things, but this has to be the last time I say them.

“We have to be more ruthless and we have to take advantage of our dominance.

“They didn’t have a sniff and we’ve just thrown away another two points – when Jutkiewicz came on we should have been 3-0 up.

The reason we play this way is to score, dominate and take the game away from the opposition – we have to grow up and understand where we are.”

Rosenior added: “The one-touch stuff is great but we’re here to score goals.

“This is on me – I’d never criticise individuals –but for us to get to where we want to be we have to all take responsibility.

“I’d say 95 per cent of our performance was magnificent but we didn’t finish it off and that’s the bit that makes the different in football.

“I love this group, but time is going to pass us by if we don’t learn lessons.

“Everyone can see the potential of this team, but we have turn the potential into reality.”

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