Stoke City’s unbeaten run in the Championship under the leadership of Steven Schumacher continued last Saturday at the AESSEAL New York Stadium against basement dwellers Rotherham, with a stunning free-kick effort from midfielder Lewis Baker securing all three points for the Potters.
The former Plymouth Argyle boss has had a positive impact on the dressing room at the bet365 Stadium since his arrival in December, only being defeated by Premier League outfit Brighton & Hove Albion during his first six contests in charge, meaning City only have second-tier matters to focus on until the season’s end.
The Potters currently occupy 17th position in the Championship standings, possessing a comforting 10-point advantage over 22nd-placed Sheffield Wednesday, although the eight-point gap between the Staffordshire club and Coventry City in sixth does seem slightly unassailable.
Arriving from Portuguese side Maritimo in the summer transfer window, Andre Vidigal has shown flair and ruthlessness in equal measure in the first half of the second-tier term, bagging five goals in 19 Championship appearances, including a strike in the reverse fixture against Birmingham on Boxing Day.
Tony Mowbray recorded his first victory as Birmingham City manager on Tuesday night, beating a second-string Hull side at St Andrew’s in a third-round FA Cup replay, although for a large part of the contest it appeared as if Liam Rosenior‘s Tigers would be advancing to face Leicester City instead.
In the 63rd minute, the 60-year-old Blues boss made five changes at once which completely altered the direction of the contest, with Jay Stansfield arriving off the bench to cancel
out Jason Eyenga-Lokilo’s opener, before fellow substitute Koji Miyoshi bundled home a 93rd-minute winner to spare supporters of another freezing 30 minutes of football at St Andrew’s.
The reverse fixture between Birmingham and Stoke on Boxing Day is arguably when Wayne Rooney’s fate as Blues manager was sealed, with strikes from Jordan Thompson, Lynden Gooch and Potters’ leading marksman Vidigal condemning the hosts to a 3-1 defeat in the Second City.
Looking for stability under the experienced leadership of Mowbray, Birmingham are currently 20th in the Championship standings with a seven-point buffer between themselves and the relegation zone, however the arrival of the former Sunderland boss has eased worries of a scrap for survival in the remaining months of the campaign.
After netting the equaliser in front of a sparsely-populated Tilton Road end on Tuesday, on-loan striker Stansfield pointed to the turf, seemingly committing his short-term future to the Second City, despite interest from Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town during this month.