Rudy Gestede lifted the gloom at Aston Villa with the only goal on Tuesday to see off fierce rivals Birmingham City 1-0 in the League Cup third round.
Gestede broke the deadlock just after the hour mark with a powerful header from Jordan Amavi’s cross, the striker netting his second goal for Villa and first since the opening day of the Premier League season.
Both sides struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the opening half, but Villa finally burst into life after the break with Gestede converting his first sight of goal.
Victory was greeted with an expression of relief from Tim Sherwood at the final whistle as his team booked their fourth-round spot, with the Villa boss hopeful the result can prove a catalyst to ending the side’s five-game winless streak in the league.
Championship side Birmingham were quickly out of the blocks at a raucous Villa Park, with Jacques Maghoma and Demarai Gray going close early on.
Birmingham’s start stunned Villa – who made four changes from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to West Brom in the Premier League – but eventually Sherwood’s men settled into the match and began to threaten.
Gabriel Agbonlahor was first to be presented with an opening as he narrowly missed out on Leandro Bacuna’s low cross, and the striker was wasteful once again just before the half hour with a wayward strike.
As half-time approached, Scott Sinclair’s pace created space inside the Birmingham penalty area, but the forward was unable to get enough power in his shot and Tomasz Kuszczak saved easily.
Sherwood made two attacking changes at the break by introducing Jack Grealish and Jordan Ayew and Villa immediately posed more of a threat.
A superb throughball from Jordan Veretout released Bacuna on the right and his whipped cross was met by Sinclair, but the striker was unable to turn his header goalwards.
Gestede, a close-season signing from Blackburn Rovers, provided the game’s first moment of real quality when he opened the scoring after 62 minutes.
Amavi found Gestede with a tantalising ball from the left and the striker duly thumped his header past the stationary Kuszczak.
Despite taking the lead, Villa failed to control of the match and were lucky not to concede with 16 minutes to play as Clayton Donaldson and Gray played in Maghoma, but Brad Guzan clung onto his shot at the second attempt.
Having survived that let off, Villa twice went close through Sinclair, but the forward was unable to extend the hosts’ winning margin.