“There are a load of disappointed faces in the changing room,” reflected Tom Holmes after falling to a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City – Yakou Méïté had cancelled out Lukas Jutkiewicz’s opener, but the Blues won it in the second half through their captain Harlee Dean.
“We came here unbeaten in four, spirits were high, we were confident going into the game and we thought we had more than enough to compete and go on and get the win. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“Birmingham were a very aggressive team – you could see that in the first half with the number of second balls they were competing for. Playing with the aggression and warrior spirit that the manager wants us to play with.
“We rode that period well and got the goal back, and as a team we thought it was there for the taking. So it was a sucker punch in the second half. It was a set-piece – and that hasn’t been common this season. It’s a rarity, and a frustrating one, because the game was opening up in the second half and we were getting our influential players onto the ball, getting into good areas and suffocating them in their half.
“That’s football. And it’s been clear to see that this team has bouncebackability. That’s the beauty of the Championship: it’s a quick turnaround, we have a game on Saturday, and we have to recover our wounded soldiers and get everyone back fit and raring to go."
37 played, nine left to come. It’s been good so far, it’s still in our hands… but this is when it really, really counts.
Hosting Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, an international weekend, and then a further eight opportunities to pick up three points. Our season hinges on what comes next.
“It’s no good getting to nine games left and then relaxing and easing off and looking back and saying, ‘what a season we’ve had’,” Holmes continued.
“This is crunch time.
“We have players coming back – we’ve had big players falling out injured, but people have stepped in well. But hopefully after the international break we can have everyone back, competing, raring to go. I can tell you for sure that everyone is focused, and we couldn’t ask for a better management team to lead us into those final games.
“There’s no time for heads to hang and I’m sure that’s what the gaffer and his staff will want – they have been good with us all season, picking up our spirits after defeats. Approaching victory and defeat with the same enthusiasm, and as a team we need to take that into Saturday.
“Last time we played QPR, we scored a last-minute winner. It shows that we’ve got that in us – we do believe. It wasn’t to be in Birmingham, but we’re looking forward to Saturday.
“We know that they’re a strong outfit and that they like to play, but we feel we can turn that to our advantage. We want to let the football do the talking. That’s all we can focus on.”