Birmingham City: Connor Mahoney says squad is 'tightest' he has played in

Birmingham City have won on six of their eight visits to Ashton Gate over the last decade
Birmingham City have won on six of their eight visits to Ashton Gate over the last decade

Birmingham City remain under threat of a points deduction from the English Football League for their inflated wage bill during the 2016-17 season.

But, on and off the field, on-loan winger Connor Mahoney says the Blues players still feel totally unified.

After scoring in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate, Mahoney told BBC WM: "We're a very tight squad.

"This is as tight a squad as I've played in. One of the tightest I've been in. We spend days off together".

Mahoney came in on loan from Bournemouth in August, one of the five signings Blues have been limited to this season, while they have worked closely with the EFL to sort out their breach of the league's financial rules.

After an initial transfer embargo, the Chinese-owned Championship club were only allowed to make either free transfer or loan signings.

Goalkeeper Lee Camp arrived from Sunderland on a free, and Blues agreed three supposedly season-long loans for Omar Bogle from Cardiff City and Aston Villa's Gary Gardner, as well as Mahoney.

When Bogle cut short his deal and joined League One side Portsmouth last month, Birmingham were not allowed to replace him.

But they had held back one of their permitted signings to be used in the January window, and brought in Swedish international Kerim Mrabti.

Fresh faces gave Blues a lift

It was to Mahoney and Mrabti to whom Blues boss Garry Monk successfully turned in an attempt to freshen up his thin 22-man squad at Ashton Gate.

Mrabti made a decent first league start for Blues, being involved in the build-up to Mahoney's goal.

And Mahoney himself impressed, scoring only the second goal of his career in his 50th league appearance three minutes before the break, then crossing for what proved to be Michael Morrison's winner two minutes after the restart.

"It was a bit of a deflection," he said. "It won't go down in the memory books but, if you don't shoot, you don't score.

"I need to start shooting more and scoring more goals. But I've been pushing at the gaffer's door for a while and it went well.

"Defensively, when I first came here I wasn't the best. I was maybe a bit of a liability and couldn't be trusted. But I needed to show the gaffer I can do the other side of it and I got my rewards going forward."

I can't credit players enough - Monk

Connor Mahoney was one of four new faces brought in by Garry Monk in the summer
Connor Mahoney was one of four new faces brought in by Garry Monk in the summer

Their sixth away win of the season took Birmingham to 50 points, just three off the play-off places, and 20 clear of the relegation zone, a crucial buffer to withstand any points penalty that might or might not come their way.

"Our big aim this season was always to finish in a more comfortable position than we generally have the last few seasons, and we're well on the way to doing that," Monk told BBC WM.

"Performances like this one against Bristol City just keep up that feelgood factor. It was typical of the team effort we've had this season, and I can't credit the players enough.

"Our biggest success this season is the way the players have managed to unify the club. It's been a big part of what we've done this season and why the fans have responded in the way they have.

"This whole season has been about having a small, tight squad. The key point is that the lads are together and everyone is willing each other on."

Garry Monk and Connor Mahoney were talking to BBC WM's Richard Wilford.