Date: 7th January 2017 at 5:54pm
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Gianfranco Zola needed a performance and boy did he get one. He called on his players to be braver on the ball, particularly during adverse situations. And it would have been easy for Blues’ players to drop their heads when Daryll Murphy put Newcastle ahead after just five minutes.

Instead, they moved the ball swiftly and attacked Newcastle, caused them problems. With Diego Fabbrini and Che Adams operating either side of Lukas Jutkiewicz, Zola effectively played without wingers which put the emphasis on the two full backs. Jonathan Grounds was solid and played a major part in Jutkiewicz’s equaliser and Josh Cogley, when he replaced Jonathan Spector just before the interval, looked assured and mature.

Newcastle struggled to get a dominant foothold in midfield without the suspended Jonjo Shelvey. A much improved Maikel Kieftenbeld and David Davis buzzed about literally everywhere while Stephen Gleeson sat and recycled possession usefully.

In the end, Blues could have won it. Late on, Jutkiewicz sent two very good crosses over the bar with his head with the goal gaping wide in front of him. A replay will have to do.

It’s a replay that both sides could probably do without. Nevertheless, such a performance should inject a bit of confidence into the squad as they look to return to winning ways in the Championship next weekend.

The Zola mantra is beginning to rub off and, very slowly but very surely, the players seem to getting used to it. If Blues can cut out the silly errors and work on their defensive frailties (namely, set pieces) they won’t be a million miles away.

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