Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have made from work up to Dingle Dell for this match and judging by the appalling standard of the first game at St Andrews why would you want to? I was surprised but nevertheless delighted that 2,200 or so bluenoses did make the effort to attend which out of a total crowd of 10,153 was a fine turn out considering that the match was televised on prime time terrestrial TV. Mick McCarthy was confident that the game was sure to be much better than the original tie since by his reasoning it couldn’t be worse and his team were setting up 4-4-2 and going for it. He expected Blues to do the same and therefore we were going to get an excellent match. I had my doubts I have to confess but was very happy to be proved wrong as I settled down in the comfort of my living room to watch.
The pundits suggested that Wolves at home with Premiership credentials should be too strong for Blues and a home win was predicted but that they would have to start with energy and a high tempo. This they totally failed to do as Blues started the brighter and after good build up play a dangerous looking cross from Murphy on the left was only cut out by the Wolves defenders with Rooney lurking at the far post for a tap in. However, Wolves should have scored after only nine minutes when Ebanks-Blake got in between two defenders to head narrowly wide from an excellent Adam Hammill cross; in my view this was a bad miss. Another quality cross, this time from overlapping right-back Matt Doherty was just too high for the striker to capitalize.
David Murphy and Jean Beausejour needed lengthy treatment after a clash of heads with both players going down the tunnel, blood pouring from each of their heads. Blues were down to nine men for several minutes but you would never have believed it given the home side’s lack of urgency in making their numerical advantage count. The game was a better watch than the one ten days before but with Blues enjoying the majority of the possession and the play it was still apparent that the ball was being worked back and forth across the pitch with very little forward momentum. More attractive it may have been but there wasn’t a great deal happening to be honest until Adam Rooney had the best chance besides Ebanks-Blake’s after 33 minutes. A mistake by Wolves skipper Christophe Berra left the Blues striker with a clear run at goal. Instead of committing to the shot when he stood an excellent chance of scoring he dithered and allowed left-back, George Elokobi to get back and challenge him. It looked to me that he was waiting for the challenge to gain a penalty and a red card for the Wolves defender. Although Elokobi does appear to go through Rooney to tip the ball it was not clear cut even on replay and so I think Mr Webb was correct to tell Rooney to get up and get on with the game. I, like many others, in homes up and down the country was shouting at the screen ‘shoot you stupid *!”#**!’ This was an unforgivable omission not to at least get the shot off and leads me to think further that Rooney is simply not good enough at this level and unless there are clear signs of improvement in the next year or so his days at Blues are numbered.
Blues again threatened to break the deadlock three minutes before the interval when Jordon Mutch’s in swinging free-kick picked out Curtis Davies whose glancing header forced a fine save from Dorus de Vries away to his left. Jonathan Spector was only inches wide with a sweetly hit cross-shot from 25 yards immediately before the break and the boos that greeted the half time whistle told you everything you needed to know about what the sparse home support thought about it all.
The second half was an improvement on the first with Blues still the better side. Curtis Davies had to be alert in defence however as he stopped Ebanks-Blake’s progress as he attempted to run onto a pass from Kevin Doyle and then blocked a shot from the Irish striker. The game was becoming end to end and De Vries was called upon to turn aside a low shot from Mutch but a deflection took much of the sting out of it. Blues had some good fortune at the other end when Doherty’s drive flicked off Blues defender Steven Caldwell and bounced up wickedly but Colin Doyle was perfectly placed. Eggert Jonsson’s caught the sweet spot on the ball as his attempt shot through a ruck of players. Fortunately, Doyle’s technique was equally adept and he clung on to the fast moving strike well.
Elliott settled the match with 17 minutes left when a right wing corner from Mutch was deflected down to Elliott only a couple of yards out but he contrived to hit the post. Murphy’s follow-up effort had been blocked but the ball fell back to Elliott lying on the ground in his original position. Swinging his right foot at it, he poked the ball over the line to send the Blues faithful into raptures and me up off the sofa. Blues nearly scored a second just after when Dorus De Vries turned over a powerful drive from Beausejour after Stephen Hunt was caught dithering in possession. Colin Doyle was the hero ten days ago with a superb double save from Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher and he repeated the feat when he dived bravely at the feet of Fletcher and then turned over the follow up attempt from Hunt in the 89th minute. Blues saw out the rest of the game and the deserved win was secured.
The Good: The win and the fact that Blues deserved it. Our lads looked as if they wanted it more; they played the better football and retained possession so much better than in the first half against Millwall on Saturday. Jordon Mutch was particularly improved in this regard and Gomis had an excellent game next to him. Great courage shown by Beausejour and Murphy after a nasty clash of heads; they are to be commended for returning so quickly after being stitched up.
The Bad: Rooney’s failure to take that glorious chance in the first half. In his defence, playing up on his own was a pretty thankless task but Elliott supported him well. The Wolves performance overall was poor and they surprised me; I thought they would really have a go at us and we would have a torrid evening but it wasn’t the case; no win in all competitions in nine for them now I believe. They will have to do a lot better against Voldemort’s Vile Army on Saturday even though they are rubbish too. 😛
The Ugly: The look on Mick McCarthy’s face at the end of the game. He must be disappointed that so few of his players took the opportunity to impress. Ebanks-Blake was probably the pick of their players and as he isn’t a Premier League centre forward in my opinion I reckon that just about says it all.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Dorus De Vries 7, Matt Doherty 6 (Stephen Ward 83, N/A) Richard Stearman 6, Christoph Berra 6, George Elokobi 5, Adam Hammill 6, Eggert Jonsson 6, (Adlen Guediora 67, 6) Nenad Milijas 6, Stephen Hunt 5, Kevin Doyle 5 (Steven Fletcher 72, 6) Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 7.
Bookings: Berra 86 Goals: None
Birmingham City: Colin Doyle 7, Jonathan Spector 7, Steven Caldwell 7, Curtis Davies 7, David Murphy 7, Nathan Redmond 6 (Chris Burke 76, 6) Jordon Mutch 7, Magaro Gomis 8 (Keith Fahey 90, N/A) Jean Beausejour 7, Wade Elliott 8, Adam Rooney 6.
Bookings: None Goals: Elliott 73
Referee: Howard Webb 8: As assured as ever. Performance was commensurate with his status in the game. He was hardly noticed and that is more often than not the sign of a good official.