Bowyer is invaluable – McLeish

Bowyer netted his sixth goal of the campaign to earn the Blues

victory against his former club West Ham at St Andrews. It was the

third time in the last four games that the 32-year-old has come up

with the only goal in wins against Fulham, Wolves and now the

Hammers. City are now unbeaten in seven games, from which they have

collected 17 points and moved into eighth spot in the Barclays

Premier League. McLeish said: “Lee has exceeded my expectations,

and he had been given a new lease of life. He is enjoying himself,

and we are getting the rewards on the field. “It is difficult to

put a price on what his goals are worth to us. “He looks an

absolute bargain now. When we signed him from West Ham, he had had

a couple of injuries and was not playing regularly. Things were not

right for him. “But what would he be worth now? The goals he has

got have been winning goals, and it is difficult to put a price on

what they would be worth to us if we manage to stay in the Premier

League.” McLeish acknowledges that expectation levels will rise if

City maintain their current form, but he has trust in his current

squad after they kept yet another clean sheet. He said: “The

expectation level grows with every performance and result. “The

players have got to deal with that, but they are excellent

characters. “We lost just sucker goals earlier in the season, but

that is part of the learning process. There are some fantastic

player characters in my dressing room. “We are building a solid

Premier League team here, and starting to play good football, which

has been added to the tremendous spirit of the last two years.”

McLeish admitted: “We had to work hard in the end for the victory.

I felt we dominated proceedings and should have put West Ham away.

“But they are fighting for points, and threw caution to the wind

and I had my heart in my mouth a bit. But I have got a lot of trust

in these players.” West Ham dropped into the bottom three as a

result of Wolves’ surprise win at Tottenham, but manager Gianfranco

Zola is refusing to go overboard. He said: “I thought we deserved

something from the game. The players tried very hard and didn’t

deserve this result. “But we have to dig even deeper to find a

solution, and I think we have the players to do it. It is important

not to panic. We are missing important players through injury but I

appreciate what these players are giving me and they are trying

very hard.” Zola was unhappy with the performance of referee Lee

Mason, who sent off midfielder Mark Noble for two bookable

offences. He said: “I’m not in the mood to speak about the referee.

Referees make mistakes, but today there were too many, and some

that were easy not to make. We had the right to complain.” Zola

admitted Bowyer’s decisive contribution was a painful experience.

He said: “When Lee left in January, he was not playing very much.

He was coming back from an injury, needed to play, and that was not

possible with us. “I know how capable he is. He’s a player who can

score goals. It is painful to say that. I have no doubts that he is

a good player.”