It was a real pleasure to watch the game with Bazza and Aylesburyblue, a bit of a Joys and Sorrows on tour! Kev
Mrs Bazza joined me on the trip to Bristol for this one as my eldest boy Jonny is at University in the town and of course she was anxious to see him and clean up his pit of a flat! I had also arranged to meet our very own Kev and Mike from Joys and Sorrows who were travelling to the game from their respective homes in Devon and Aylesbury so I guess you could say this is a view from the west and the middle as well!
Mrs Bazza and I took Jonny for lunch at a local restaurant and it made a change from the usual fare of steak pie and a pint to tuck into a full Sunday roast. My wife who has no interest in football was bundled into a taxi to visit the local IKEA which is a massive complex by all accounts and Jonny assured me would keep her amused for at least two hours before we rescued her after the game.
We made our way to the ground and found Kev and Mike sitting in the stand behind the goal. I requested a move because as you can see there was a minor obstruction to the view because of a big red post holding the roof of the stand up. Ashton Gate used to be a pokey little place in years gone by and although the stands have been developed the capacity is actually smaller than the old days because of seating.
Everyone in the away support were still buzzing from Thursday in Bruges so we were all in fine voice and confident of a positive result against a team struggling to find form. We set up 4-4-2 with King and Wood up front, Gomis came in for N’Daw alongside Fahey, Burke and Beausejour with Curtis Davies restored to centre-half following his injury and as a replacement for Pablo Ibanez who understandably sat this one out after his head injury in the week. Steven Carr and Liam Ridgewell filled the full back berths and Caldwell retained his place. Boaz Myhill continued in goal.
Blues started positively and largely dominated the hosts with their better passing and movement. Bristol worked very hard for their new manager but spent most of their time playing in front of the two lines of four presented to them by Birmingham but could count themselves unfortunate in the 20th minute when Marvin Elliott’s stunning volley was tipped on to the bar by Boaz Myhill. Soon after, a golden chance went begging when Elliott picked out Jonathan Stead inside the penalty area following a sloppy pass by Ridgewell that was intercepted. Fortunately for Blues, the forward pulled his shot wide. He should have at least hit the target despite the close attentions of Caldwell.
These let offs seem to wake Blues up and we came even closer when a fantastic last-ditch block from Robins skipper Liam Fontaine denied Marlon King, after David James had parried Chris Wood’s first attempt. Heads were in hands in the away end but Blues got their deserved lead when Burke tapped in Jean Beausejour’s cross at the back post in the 36th minute following a well worked move down the left flank between the Chilean wide man and Liam Ridgewell. Blues could have gone further ahead when David James went on one of his famous walkabouts when he attempted to challenge Wood running through onto a pass from Fahey. James was nowhere near it and Wood pulled the ball round him. He was unlucky from an acute angle as his finish went into the side netting instead of inside the post.
Early in the second half Jamal Campbell-Ryce capitalised on a loose Stephen Carr back-pass and rounded Myhill whose unfortunate slip left the diminutive little winger free and like Wood, the angle was too tight and the outcome was the same with the ball just the wrong side of the post.
A flat second half saw the home side with more possession but frankly they never really threatened and it was going to take a mistake by Blues to allow them back into the game. This nearly occurred when Myhill’s clearance struck the oncoming Bristol City attacker and Myhill was very fortunate that the rebound ricocheted straight into his hands rather than over his head. Blues seemed content to let the hosts tip tap the ball square back and forth and keep the play in front of them. Bristol’s frustration at their lack of progress spilled over when an incensed Curtis Davies squared up to Nicky Maynard following a robust challenge from the striker which left stud marks in the centre-back’s nether-regions. Maynard was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.
Blues produced little of note themselves in the second period but Zigic who had replaced Wood should have scored with a close range header from Burke’s cross that thumped into the chest of James when a foot either side would surely have registered. It was nevertheless a fine save. Blues nearly paid for their lack of ambition near the end when Myhill pulled off a fine fingertip save to turn Albert Adomah’s low strike away late on and it effectively ended the home’s side’s hopes as, in the fifth and final minute of added time, Burke broke the offside trap and latched on to Davies’s header, before firing under James to seal the points and add a more realistic look to the score line.
Overall this was a good performance; there are no superstars in this Birmingham team but the emphasis is on the word team. They are playing with energy, pride, passion and industry. Whichever eleven are selected they all appear to want to play for Birmingham City and the following Blue support are responding in kind with noisy, raucous support. I have said until now that a mid-table place would be a good outcome this year but we have momentum and the more I see of the rest of the Championship, the more upbeat I’m feeling about our prospects. The team is definitely gelling and improving game on game. Chris Hughton is to be commended for his astute rotation policy and his tactics which are a welcome change from the previous regime. Like most Blues fans I am enjoying watching my team at the moment; long may it continue.
The Good: The company of Jonny, Kev and Mike. The performance of the team and the two fine finishes by Chris Burke. Also in the programme Liam Ridgewell was described as the ‘one to watch’ which caused us all a laugh. (Edit by Kev, especially as Wood and Burke have been doing all the damage!)
The Bad: The effects of the roast lunch and the visit to Pizza Hut in the evening on my waistline. Jonny is a young man and can burn it off; as for Mrs Bazza and I it’s a case of comfort not speed!
The Ugly: The situation that Bristol City find themselves in; it is difficult to see how they can haul themselves off the bottom of the league. They lack quality all over the pitch (apart from their ageing goalkeeper) They have six points, have scored only four goals at home, two in one match and they lost that one. Moreover, they have conceded 25 goals. It doesn’t look too good.
Bristol City (4-4-2): James 8; Skuse 6 (McGivern 46, 6), Stewart 6, Fontaine 7, Nyatanga 6; Campbell-Ryce 7 (Cisse 65, 6), Kilkenny 6, Elliott 6, Adomah 6; Maynard 6, Stead 5(Pitman 76, 5). Booked: Fontaine, Stewart, Maynard.
Birmingham (4-4-2): Myhill 6; Carr 7, Caldwell 7, Davies 8, Ridgewell 6; Burke 9, Gomis 7, Fahey 6, Beausejour 8; Wood 7(Zigic 75, 7), King 7 (Murphy 76, 7).Booked: Beausejour, Myhill, Carr. Goals: Burke 36, 90.
Referee: R East (Wiltshire) 7: OK for most of the game but I thought he lost concentration in the last 20 minutes or so and spoiled what would have been a good performance with some rather bizarre decisions. He was lenient with Nicky Maynard but overall it wasn’t a dirty game so I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He stood for no nonsense of players looking for penalties and there were several incidents throughout the match. All the calls were in my view correct.
Attendance: 13,577 (1,537 Blues fans)