Hughton hails battling Blues

04 November 2011 10:16

Birmingham boss Chris Hughton praised his side's fighting qualities as they hit back from 2-0 down to keep their Europa League qualification hopes alive against Club Brugge at St Andrew's.

Blues looked set for defeat against the Belgian side, who could be about to offer a chance to Steve McClaren to return as football after sacking coach Adrie Koster at the weekend. But Jean Beausejour and Marlon King (penalty) cancelled out first half goals from Thomas Meunier and Joseph Akpala in a thrilling 2-2 draw in front of a near full house of 26,000.

Hughton, whose side are now on seven points alongside Brugge and Braga with two games remaining in the group, said: "When you are 2-0 behind against a very good team, a footballing side, it can be difficult. Their forward six players are all very good footballers, and they can hurt you, and they did just that in the first half."

He added: "We weren't anywhere near them really but I know there is a lot of character in the team and, if we got the one goal, I knew there was every chance we could get more.

"But we rallied round, and came out stronger in the second half. Sometimes when you are behind and you need a little bit extra from players, you sometimes get it. They are a side that has conceded goals. In the end, on the balance of play, it was a fair result."

As regards Birmingham's qualification chances, Hughton said: "All we wanted to be was up there.

"We've two more games, hopefully that sees us qualifying. If we don't qualify, providing we go out giving it a real go, then we will be happy with that."

Club Brugge caretaker boss Rudy Verkempinck confirmed former England head coach McClaren is "one on the list" of potential candidates. McClaren parted company with Nottingham Forest last month after barely three months in charge.

Verkempinck said: "I heard the news (about McClaren) but there are many coaches being talked about.

"Brugge is a top team and we want really a winner, a leader, and he (McClaren) is one on the list. We will see, I will keep doing my job and I hope a good coach will come."

Source: PA