I had a longer journey to the match on this occasion than usual as I had been in Plymouth for two days on business. In fact, the night before Argyle had entertained Watford at Home Park and since I was in the area I went along. A Plymouth season ticket holder approached me as I was waiting in the queue and for only £15 got me in to one of the best seats in the ground with his wife’s spare ticket as she was unable to make it for the game. The game was entertaining despite the atrocious conditions and Plymouth came out winners deservedly 2 – 1.
I left the West Country mid afternoon and proceeded north up the M5. It seemed a bit strange to be in the same traffic as many of the Bristol City fans heading towards Birmingham for the game. The journey was a smooth one and there were no delays until of course I reached the Hagley Road. Fortunately, I was in plenty of time and had enough in hand to neck a quick pint before taking up my seat.
I thought it was going to be another one of those nights when after barely one minute of the match Dele Adebola was put clean through one on one with Maik Taylor with enough time to make a cup of tea, drink it, pick his spot and organise the celebration in one of our local night clubs! Fortunately, the killer instinct that we had come to know and love is still present and the trusty left foot struck the ball – wide! I am certain a right footed effort would have curled inside the post rather than outside of it but as we all know he uses that one for standing on doesn’t he? The incident was a huge let off and having uncovered my face it was pleasing to know the score was still 0 – 0. Bristol had of course won 8/10 games prior to their draw on Saturday against Blackpool so they were confident and in form. They certainly showed signs of being, slick of pass, fleet of foot and likely to cause our fragile defence problems. I’m glad to say that my initial fears were unfounded as the lads picked up the tempo, pressed the ball and allowed the opposition little time on the ball. This is what the faithful have been demanding all season and what a difference it makes when these Championship sides are given the hurry up. We dominated possession, forced a series of corners and free kicks and Jaidi was unlucky to see his header from one of these set pieces come back off the cross bar. Lee Bowyer was excellent again but was guilty of wasting the best chance of the first half by drilling his free header from Larsson’s cross straight at the keeper from six yards. Basso, in goal for the visitors, was in excellent form and saved smartly low down at his right hand post from a trademark free kick from Super Seb. Jerome and Bent up front for us were giving the Bristol defence problems and we looked dangerous going forward and as the set pieces mounted.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first with relentless pressure applied again. Mike Taylor hit the bar again and Bowyer missed a gilt edged chance to score by placing his header wide from a similar distance to his earlier effort. Bristol still looked dangerous on the break but Blues stuck at the task and nullified their attacks so that scary moments were kept to a minimum. I confess to feelings of apprehension around 80 minutes when despite all our pressure and missed chances the score remained resolutely 0 – 0. The horrid feeling that they were going to counterattack and claim a wholly undeserved win was coming over me in waves and on the odd occasion when they delivered crosses into our box breath holding became the order of the evening. One such cross was met well by a Bristol forward and the eyes were covered again. I felt that Maik Taylor looked far too nonchalant as the ball passed a couple of inches wide of the far post. The reason became clear as the referee awarded a free kick. Phew! Nice to know it’s all under control Maik! On the subject of the officials; I don’t know what we have to do to be awarded a penalty. We should have had one at the end of the first half for as clear a push in the back as you will ever see and with five minutes to go a hand ball which I could see from where I was sitting was waved off. It makes that pathetic decision on Sunday against Sheffield United that cost us the game all the harder to take. When the assistant on our side awarded offside against Cameron Jerome on the other side of the field from a throw in, the tolerance of the assembled faithful finally snapped! The booing against the hapless, inept and useless official could have been heard the other side of the city. I find it astonishing that officials at this level can forget the rules or not even know them in the first place!
The crosses continued to rain in on the Bristol goal. The pressure was now reaching intolerable levels for them buoyed on by the fans. The Tilton was in good voice for the first time in ages almost willing the ball towards them. The air of desperation was relieved and our entreaties rewarded in the 87th minute when yet another corner was swung over by Bowyer. The cross was met with the full force of Franck Quedrue’s forehead to bulge the roof of the net. St Andrews erupted and at long last the goal that I thought wasn’t going to come had arrived. I’ve got a sore shoulder at the moment consequent of getting older and more decrepit. The problem isn’t serious and pretty common in those of us in middle age. I flung my arms in the air as the goal went in and was rewarded by a real stinger down my arm to the elbow due to my shoulder impingement. YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! was followed rapidly by OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!! The pain passed off after a minute or so no harm done and at the end of the day it was worth it.
Blues deserved their win and the result should have been more comprehensive but we dominated a good side and kept a clean sheet for once. The most pleasing aspect of the victory was the manner by which it was obtained. The boys worked hard from start to finish. They pressed the ball and put their foot in and prevented Bristol from playing their slick brand of football. Bristol lost this game not because they were bad but they were bested in midfield and Blues won the lion’s share of the second ball. The atmosphere at St Andrews was the best I’ve known it all season because the fans recognised that the team gave everything they had to secure the win. Funny how we will forgive all the silly mistakes providing the effort is there isn’t it? If Birmingham play like this for the rest of the season we will be promoted – simple as that.
Bravo Brum! This sort of performance has been absent for too long!