Regular readers of my reports will forgive me for not actually attending this game. Snow was forecast and it duly arrived as predicted on cue for the start of the game. I had played golf with Will in West Sussex in the afternoon and Mrs Bazza had called me at about half past four to say that snow was already falling at home even though it had not reached us as yet. I pulled into our drive with the white stuff settling and ensconced myself in front of the television just in time for kick off with a beer in hand.
It was a pity to see that Nikola Zigic had not recovered from the knock he received scoring his fourth goal at Leeds in midweek and King started up front alongside Rooney who came in, in place of Wade Elliott. Mogaro Gomis was replaced by Guirane N’Daw returning from the 90 degrees temperature of Equatorial Guinea to the freezing conditions of England. Otherwise the team was as you were.
Blues started on the front foot and Burke was upended in the sixth minute on the edge of the box. Unfortunately, Murphy gambled on the Southampton wall jumping up to prevent the usual top corner curler by thumping it low. Sadly, the shivering Saints players stayed rooted to the spot and the rebound was dispatched into the stands. N’Daw had the best chance of the half as an excellent cross from Jonathan Spector’s free kick was headed agonisingly wide by the Senegalese international but I suspect that Kelvin Davis in the Southampton goal may well have saved it had it been just inside the post rather than just outside it. Midway through the half a reckless challenge by Danny Fox on Chris Burke was rewarded with the first yellow card of the day by referee, Phil Dowd.
Southampton started to assert themselves after the initial exchanges and despite the conditions played neat watchable football and Blues had to defend a series of corners by the visitors to prevent Saints from opening the scoring. Southampton up to the interval were looking the better side without really threatening despite their pressure and the half ended with the game scoreless. I switched over to watch a bit of the rugby and refilled my beer mug as I couldn’t face the adverts and the half-time BS.
Blues almost scored within thirty-nine seconds of the restart courtesy of Marlon King. Jordon Mutch played a neat ball through to David Murphy on the left. Murphy cut inside and fed the ball across the front of the area where King let go with a fierce low side-footed shot which Davis saved superbly round the post for a corner. That really was about as good as it got and whilst the Saints had been the better of the two sides in the first half, the second period definitely belonged to Blues.
The much lauded arrival of Billy Sharp, Southampton’s new signing from Doncaster occurred on 51 minutes as Nigel Adkins made his first change when he brought him on in place of David Connolly. The traditional chants of who? who? and who are ya? could be heard clearly greeting the substitute to the St Andrews ice rink! Sharp almost benefited from a lucky deflection which fell to him but instead of hitting it first time with his left foot he chose to take a touch, turn inside and the shot was blocked by Caldwell who was outstanding all evening. That was Southampton’s only attempt on goal and Myhill didn’t have to save a single shot all game.
Blues were in the ascendancy and the visitors were coming under increasing pressure. There was a shout for a penalty when Cork appeared to take out Jordon Mutch. I was certainly up calling for a spot kick and calling Mr Dowd a number of unpleasant names when he and his Assistant were unmoved but when I saw the replay, Cork plays the ball cleanly and if anything Mutch follows through to contact with Cork rather than the other way round and the referee’s assistant flagged for an infringement against Mutch rather than placing his flag across his chest as I thought he was going to. True, the Blues player came off worse but that is irrelevant. Will called after the game and was convinced that Cork’s challenge in those conditions was reckless and according to the laws of the game a foul and therefore a penalty should have been awarded. I am bound to disagree, I’m afraid; I thought the challenge was fair and the decision therefore a correct one although on first viewing the officials could have been forgiven for seeing it differently. Cork can count himself lucky however, as it was a risky challenge in the slippery conditions. Mutch then just after hit a shot on the volley from 20 yards but he failed to keep it down and it went over.
Wade Elliott replaced Adam Rooney on 66 minutes but the match became increasingly difficult as the snow came down thicker. The game became more direct as both teams chased a winner with Blues looking the more likely. Unfortunately, there was no Nikola Zigic to aim at in what would have been an ideal scenario for him to add to his eight goal tally for the season or at least create panic. N’Daw was cautioned after 75 minutes for a challenge on Do Prado and he was fortunate on a couple of occasions earlier with sliding challenges that missed by fair margins not to be in trouble for reckless play. Despite this, he was one of the stand out players for Blues along with excellent contributions from Spector, both centre-backs, especially Caldwell, and Murphy. Mutch looked out of place on the left and this is an area of the team that needs to be fixed when the loan market opens up in a few days’ time and Burke was ineffective because of the conditions more than most because of his type of game. Nevertheless, he kept putting the effort in.
On 83 minutes the Saints were reduced to ten men when Danny Fox was given a second yellow card for a blatant push on Burke who was getting the better of the full back for pace. The pundits were banging on about the decision being harsh and Will also suggested that the Saints man shouldn’t have been dismissed. Once again, I beg to differ. I feel the Assistant and Phil Dowd got this decision absolutely correct as well. With the luxury of replay especially from behind the incident looking along the line, a view which the Assistant Referee would have had, Fox quite clearly hands off Burke and it is a yellow card offence and therefore the defender had to go. Blues were unable to take advantage of the extra player as Saints held firm to deny them the win and secure a well earned draw; a fair result and one which in retrospect both teams should be happy with. Saints had a chance to steal the points when Caldwell was booked for a foul on Do Prado as he threatened to go clean through in the 89th minute. Fortunately for Birmingham, Saints wasted the free-kick and the chance was gone. Blues maintain their unbeaten home record and against a good team like Southampton, in circumstances like we found ourselves, we have to be pleased with a point.
The Good: A highly watchable game considering the atrocious conditions. Credit must go to both sets of players for coping with the circumstances they found themselves in and congratulations to the nearly 18,000 intrepid souls that braved the weather to cheer on their respective teams.
The Bad: The weather. I’m still glad that the game went ahead and got finished, however. Another postponement and another fixture crammed into an already congested schedule was the last thing either team needed, especially Blues (this was our 40th game this season)
The Ugly: The fat bloke in the away end along with two other thinner nutters with their tops off, carrying bags of swag, ; in freezing conditions like that they must be mentally deranged!
Birmingham City: Boaz Myhill 6, Jonathan Spector 7, Curtis Davies 7, Steven Caldwell 8, David Murphy 7, Chris Burke 5, Guirane N’Daw 8, Jordon Mutch , Keith Fahey 6, Adam Rooney 6 (Wade Elliott, 66, 7), Marlon King 6.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Pablo Ibanez, Nathan Redmond, Jake Jervis.
Bookings: N’Daw (75), Caldwell (89).
Southampton: Kelvin Davis 8, Frazer Richardson 6, Morgan Schneiderlin 7, Jose Fonte 7, Rickie Lambert 6, Jack Cork 6 (Dean Hammond, 81, N/A), Danny Fox 6, Aaron Martin 6, Adam Lallana 6, David Connolly 6 (Billy Sharp, 51, 6), Jason Puncheon 7 (Guly Do Prado, 73, 7)
Subs not used: Bartosz Bialkowski, Dan Harding.
Bookings: Danny Fox (22, 83 – Sent off – 83).
Attendance: 17, 994 (1,555 Away fans)
Referee: Phil Dowd: 7 I thought Mr Dowd and his officials handled a tricky game in poor conditions very well. They were right to allow the game to go ahead and they got the key decisions right in my view although I can understand those who view the two main incidents discussed above differently.