Lee Bowyer got his managerial reign at Birmingham City off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory against Reading at St Andrew’s.
Goals from the recalled Lukas Jutkiewicz and captain Harlee Dean gave the Blues only their fourth win in their last 20 Championship games, sandwiching Yakou Meite’s equaliser.
Bowyer was welcomed back to Birmingham, where he played for two years from 2009-11, with a printed vinyl banner hung on the gates outside the ground declaring ‘Welcome Lee – Keep Right On’ – the latter three words in reference to the club’s enduring slogan.
Victory for Birmingham was vital to ease their relegation fears and it ended play-off challenging Reading’s four-match unbeaten run.
Bowyer’s reign got off to the good start as his side took a fourth-minute lead.
Jeremie Bela hoisted in an inswinging cross from the left and Jutkiewicz – one of two players recalled along with Gary Gardner – connected with a towering header.
It was the 31-year-old striker’s 50th goal for the club and first since November.
Birmingham centre-back Marc Roberts should have done better when he volleyed high and wide when a loose ball dropped to him on the edge of the box.
But Roberts and his team-mates had some defending to do as Reading came back into the game.
Meite’s 25-yard curling free-kick was tipped behind by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge then Josh Laurent volleyed wide.
Meite equalised in the 35th minute, stooping to head home at the far post after Michael Olise’s corner had been allowed to sail across goal and Etheridge could only flap at the header.
It was the Ivory Coast forward’s eighth goal of the season and second equaliser in as many games.
Birmingham went close before half-time when Roberts headed Alen Halilovic’s corner on top of the net then Gardner’s firm drive was parried by goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, who denied Scott Hogan from the follow up.
Birmingham captain Dean made it 2-1 in the 71st minute, rising above Alfa Semedo to net with a powerful 10-yard header after Reading failed to clear Halilovic’s corner.
Etheridge smothered Olise’s 20-yard volley with 11 minutes left then bravely fell tipped away the loose ball under pressure as Reading probed for a second equaliser.
Reading pushed the home side all the way in the closing stages but they failed to create any clear chances as Birmingham’s defence held firm to hand Bowyer a winning start.
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