Birmingham lose to Reading as Gianfranco Zola suffers new blow
Birmingham are still seeking their first win under the control of Gianfranco Zola after a 1-0 home defeat against Reading.
The midlands side have now failed to win any of their 10 games since the Italian manager took over under controversial circumstances from Gary Rowett.
They slipped to their latest reverse as a result of a 78th-minute winner from John Swift to keep third-placed Reading in a challenging position in the Sky Bet Championship.
Birmingham drafted in newcomers Kerim Frei and Emillo Nsue for their first home appearances. It was something of a gamble for the new-look Birmingham side but they were in a positive mood as they took the game to Reading but failed to find the finishing touch to some promising play.
The Royals responded by operating with five across the back in an attempt to contain the opposition, but a snappy Birmingham created several promising attacks with Lukas Jutkiewicz prominent.
It was Jutkiewicz who threatened to open Birmingham's account. Frei applied pressure and the ball ran into the path of Jutkiewicz who shot on the turn straight into the arms of Ali Al Habsi.
Reading emerged from the sustained pressure to produce a smart counter-attack down the right which ended with a low cross that found the unmarked John Swift, however he stubbed a weak shot straight at Tomasz Kuszczak.
Birmingham continued to dominate the exchanges, with Reading committed to defence which allowed the home a great deal of scope to attack.
Even defender Josh Cogley was able to advance unchecked to float over a cross which the prominent Jutkiewicz headed just wide.
Reading's obvious tactics could not be faulted as they demonstrated in the 23rd minute when Liam Kelly's long-range swirling shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Kelly put himself into another scoring position but on this occasion his effort was effectively saved by Kuszczak to highlight the fact that despite being under more pressure than the home side they had created the better opportunities.
The pace of Frei emerged early in the second half. Unfortunately he was also too quick for his own players and his low cross evaded everyone - a golden opportunity which Birmingham could ill afford to waste.
Play became scrappy and a little ill-tempered with both Stephen Gleeson and Garath McCleary picking up yellow cards following an incident in which Birmingham captain Paul Robinson was injured.
Reading's emphasis on possession football slowed down the play and also restricted their attacking moves.
One move broke down and let in Craig Gardner to unleash a 25-yard effort which Habsi could only parry.
Suddenly Reading began to push forward in depth and three times they threatened danger.
The writing was on the wall and with 12 minutes to play the Royals finally capitalised upon their more dangerous play.
A quick move down the left resulted in a cross from Jordan Obita that found the unmarked Swift to convert an easy chance from about six yards.