Birmingham City 1, Cardiff City 0
Neil Warnock knew this was a tough assignment.
When your first anniversary match falls on Friday the 13th and the Bluebirds are playing in red kit the warning signs are clear.
This was the first fixture since Warnock completed his first year in charge and there is no doubt the progress has been remarkable.
Cardiff have already won three more league games in 2017 than they managed over the 12 months of 2016.
But when you add in that this was a first match for Mr Motivator Steve Cotterill in charge of Birmingham City and this was always had the potential to be a nightmare mission.
The outcome was that Cardiff City competed for 90 minutes, but didn’t manage one shot on target.
They huffed, they puffed, but Cotterill’s Blues had more desire, more hunger and knew they were playing for the futures at the club.
City stay top of the Championship, but that could change over the weekend.
Birmingham away was the toughest match anybody could have imagined in the circumstances and it was disastrous for City.
Warnock’s players worked hard, but Sol Bamba, operating in front of the back four, had too many dodgy moments, far more than the outstanding defender usually has.
Kenneth Zohore had to live off scraps on a night when little went right for the Bluebirds.
Cotterill was delighted with his team. They fought and scrapped every step of the way.
Warnock made only one change, recalling Craig Bryson for Loic Damour, and he must have felt this team would be able to compete with a Birmingham team who lost 6-1 in their last match, against Hull.
City sent on Aron Gunnarsson, Danny Ward and Liam Feeney, but could not fight their way back into this match.
The winner came after 19 minutes when a wayward volleyed clearance by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was controlled by Che Adams and he set off on a scintillating run.
Cardiff defenders should have known he would cut inside and shoot, but they left that option open and Adams finished in clinical style.
It was a beautifully struck goal, but Warnock will analyse the mistakes which led to that winner.
Zohore’s turn and run allowed him to set up a chance for Craig Bryson, but his shot was deflected wide.
Overall, it was a bad night for Cardiff. Coterie’s players responded to his demands for effort, desire, commitment and more. They deserved their win and Warnock will address every issue with his squad after a night the Bluebirds will want to forget.
Cotterill said: “I’m proud of the players for all they’ve done for me over the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve just worked really hard at all aspects of our game and what we expected Cardiff to throw at us. We stood up to be counted.”
Warnock was bitterly disappointed and said: “We started ever so sluggishly.
“You expected Birmingham to come out of the traps with a new manager and they did well for half an hour. But we came into it and second half if we had been like ourselves I thought we could go on and win it.
“We were a lot better in the second half so I can’t complain, but we didn’t have enough shots. But it was always going to be tight. It was one of those nights.”
Birmingham City: Kuszczak, Colin, Morrison, Roberts, Grounds, Davis (Gallagher 90+6), Ndoye, Keiftenbeld, Maghoma (Gardner 90+6), Adams (Jutkiewicz 90+1), Vassell. Subs not used: Trueman, Dean, Gleeson, Jota.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Bennett, Bamba, Bryson (Gunnarsson 68), Ralls (Ward 81), Hoilett (Feeney 81), Mendez-Laing, Zohore. Subs not used: Murphy, Connolly, Damour.