I wasn’t going to go to this match because of work commitments and as I had no chance of leaving early enough from Guildford to get up to St Andrews for the game I have resigned myself to listening to the game on Blues Player. Then work that I was meant to do late in the day got moved to the morning into a cancellation slot that had come up suddenly and I found myself in a position to make it after all. Contrary to what my mate Will told everyone else in our party I did let Mrs Bazza know of my plans before setting off north and not when I was on the A46 on the way to meet up with everyone at The Royal Oak in Baginton! Chris, Will, Rob and I decided to have a meal before setting off for the ground and with the addition of Little Jack to our happy band of pilgrims we made for the ground along the A45. Parking was not an issue and neither was paying on the gate or finding seats in the Kop where we could all sit together. Will suggested that Blues had missed a trick and should sell game cards for ‘Spot the Fan’ where you put a cross on one of the empty seats where you think a fan was originally! 8,962 souls braved a bitterly cold night to watch this game and there were times during the evening when I thought that I wished it had been 8,961 in the ground but that said I’m glad I went. When you consider that 1,547 of the fans inside a freezing cold St Andrews it was little wonder that the only atmosphere on a soulless evening was generated by the visiting supporters.
The first half was pretty forgettable stuff as Leeds offered very little although they did have the first chance of the game early on from a corner but were unable to get a final touch on a ball that stayed in our six yard area for longer than we would all like. Wade Elliott put Blues ahead following an excellent move that saw the returning Marlon King spray a lovely pass through to Nathan Redmond whose pace took him to the by-line where he picked out Elliott at the far post. The midfielder made no mistake side footing the pass high into the net giving Jamie Ashdown in the Leeds goal no chance. Leeds who had done nothing to date almost equalised straight from the restart and should have done as Luke Varney headed wide from a free header eight yards out. However, Blues deserved their lead going into half time and we went for a hot drink only to find that the water for the teas and Bovrils was luke-warm – yuk!
Leeds came out in a more determined side after the break as they went in search of an equaliser but Blues almost doubled the lead with a fantastic move that saw Burke and King with a two on one thirty yards out. All King had to do was pass the ball five yards or more and the winger would surely have scored as he had acres of grass to run into. The pass was under hit and the chance of the game was gone. Doyle struggled to grasp Rodolph Austin’s vicious effort from the edge the area but did enough to clear the danger. Leeds were looking increasingly dangerous and gained momentum throughout the half as Blues sat back. The inevitable happened on 70 minutes as McCormack and El-Hadji Diouf were left completely unmarked at the far post as a routine cross came in. The latter controlled the cross made some tea, drank it and slipped a pass to McCormack who had the simple task of side footing past Doyle from eight yards. Dreadful defending but no more than Leeds deserved. Once again the team that had just scored almost threw the initiative away as following good work by Elliott, Chris Burke got in behind Leeds and almost set up King for a tap in but Paul Green’s last-ditch clearance thwarted him.
Leeds continued to press and it was Green in the thick of the action again as his header from Varney’s cross was pushed away by Doyle. The game swung decisively in Leeds favour when the referee awarded the visitors a penalty. Austin’s driven cross cannoned off Robinson’s hand and the Assistant Referee flagged for the offence but tellingly did not place his flag across his chest. The referee however from the other side of the pitch had awarded a penalty and despite speaking to his assistant stood by his decision. Replays show he got it wrong but no matter. Diouf chipped the ball straight down the middle of the goal, Doyle dived out of the way and that was that.
Clark sent on Peter Lovenkrands and the big Dane twice was unlucky not to equalise. His first touch was a shot from the left side of the area that Ashdown finger tipped away; a fine save but Lovenkrands went even closer when he made perfect contact to a volley from six yards that looked a goal from the moment he hit it but Ashdown pulled off a fantastic stop. Sometimes the ball doesn’t run for you and Blues have suffered from this phenomenon for weeks now. It is not a case that they are playing that badly; indeed I felt the performance was reasonable but our inability to keep a clean sheet, lack of ruthlessness in front of goal and some misfortune it has to be said is costing results where Blues deserve better. An example of this was when in between those two Lovenkrands chances, the Leeds keeper was beaten by a bullet header from a corner by Nikola Zigic but Aidy White, an early substitute for the injured Adam Drury cleared off the line. Sadly, it was too little too late and an earlier onslaught by Birmingham in the second half instead of waiting until it was desperation stakes might have yielded a favourable outcome; as it was, on the balance of the second half especially, and the game as a whole, Leeds and their fans deserved their victory.
The Good: The Leeds fans; it never ceases to amaze me how loyal they are, how they turn up in numbers on a freezing cold night hundreds of miles from home and create the support and noise that they do; Ladies and Gentlemen, I salute you!
The Bad: St Andrews was like a morgue for the most part. 7,400 home supporters for a FA Cup Replay 3rd Round? I know the club has problems on and off the field but this level of support is pitiful. The only thing we as fans can offer is to turn up and try and lift our players especially the youngsters whom I believe are giving of their best.
The Ugly: The loss of revenue from the lost visit of Spurs and the crushing defeat they would probably have inflicted on us; good luck Leeds but Bale, Adebayor, Defoe, Dempsey et al – OUCH! In a way I’m glad to be avoiding that particular humiliation.
Birmingham City: Colin Doyle 6; Paul Caddis 5, Steven Caldwell 6, Curtis Davies 7, Paul Robinson 6; Chris Burke 7, Morgaro Gomis 7, Ravel Morrison 6 (Peter Lovenkrands 77, 7), Wade Elliott 7, Nathan Redmond 6 (Nikola Zigic 83, N/A), Marlon King 6.
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Pablo Ibanez, Mitch Hancox, Reece Hales, Ryan Higgins.
Goal: Elliott 36 minutes
Bookings: Gomis, Robinson
Leeds United: Jamie Ashdown 8; Sam Byram 7, Tom Lees 6, Lee Peltier 6, Adam Drury N/A (Aidy White 11, 7); Paul Green 6, Rodolph Austin 7, Michael Brown 7, Luke Varney 7; El-Hadji Diouf 7 (Jason Pearce 90 N/A), Ross McCormack 7.
Subs not used: Paddy Kenny, Alan Tate, David Norris, David Somma, Ryan Hall.
Goals: McCormack 70 minutes, Diouf (pen) 78 minutes.
Referee: Andy Woolmer 4: Started out fine but performance deteriorated throughout the game. It now appears he was wrong to overrule his Assistant who correctly flagged for a free kick and not a penalty. He missed a number of clear infringements because he was not up with play at times. The referee was not responsible for the result however, we failed to defend properly for the equaliser and we passed up the most glorious opportunity with the score 1-0 when King under hit the killer pass to Burke.
Attendance: 8,962 (1,547 away fans)