I woke at my usual time of 06.30 and the warm tug of the duvet seemed to suggest a lie in as it was Saturday, a thought that was comforting. The urgent messages I was getting from my bladder however, were not and so into the upright it was and once in the bathroom there seemed little point in returning to bed and Dilys, my faithful Welsh Terrier was already giving me that look that meant one thing only; it’s time for my walk Daddy! So washed, shaved and breakfasted it was out into the damp grey morning and the quiet of Hawley woods and the cobwebs were all finally blown away. Will was unable to join me yet again for the game this week so I made my way down to Blackwater station to catch the train to Reading and from there to Coventry where Chris picked me up. When we got to St Andrews it was into the Royal George we went and consumed a most convivial quart of ale. Kick off approached and we took up our places in the Kop.
Blues set up with a virtually unchanged line up with Butland in goal, Ferguson, Robinson, Davies and Caddis across the back. Burke, Reilly, Spector and Elliott, coming in for Mitch Hancox played in a 4-4-2 behind Zigic and Lovenkrands. I have to say that the game took on a similar pattern to the match against Blackpool on Tuesday night. The standard of football was pretty poor with above all people, Chris Burke being among the worst offenders. I lost count of the number of times in the first period that he gave the ball away carelessly and it was no surprise when he was substituted at half time. Blues did next to nothing in the first period to suggest that they were capable of scoring and our direct style up towards Zigic was meat and drink to the Derby defence that gobbled up most of the long hopeful balls that we were hitting towards the big Serb. In his defence, he won a fair share of flick ons and unlike some, I do expect him to win 100% of them just because he’s 6’8″! Where I think he deserves special mention is the contribution he made in defensive areas. He was an invaluable asset at corners and free kicks and headed away countless Derby crosses. Derby are a bigger taller team than us and whilst we had a number of quick diminutive players we lacked height in comparison and Zigic more than proved his worth when they were attacking as well as up front.
Neither goalkeeper had been threatened apart from one excellent save by Butland early doors but then on 40 minutes Derby broke the deadlock. They had been on the front front for about 15 minutes in fairness without really suggesting that they were going to score when a header back into our box from a clearance was tucked away on the volley from twelve yards by Ben Davies. The header in came from Craig Forsyth who slammed into the back of Caddis. It was a clear foul and the goal should have been disallowed but in keeping with the performance of the referee, Simon Hooper it was allowed to stand despite the cacophony of boos that greeted the decision. The officiating was dreadful all afternoon but at least it was consistently awful for both sides and that is about the only positive thing one can say about the referee and his assistants. There was a particular incident when Zigic was shoved in the back as he jumped to head the ball and was catapulted forwards and yet he conceded the free kick! This and a number of completely baffling decisions littered the whole game. A disgruntled St Andrews shuffled off for half time refreshments with the visitors 1-0 to the good which on balance was deserved.
I confess that I couldn’t see how Blues were going to score. The ineffective Lovenkrands was removed and Wes Thomas sent on in his stead. Burke who had been awful first half was replaced by Nathan Redmond. Credit must go to Lee Clark here as at least he recognised that the set up he had was clearly not working and changed it. It was to prove a defining decision. Blues were far better with quicker tempo, more accurate passing and more energy in closing down the opposition. They now looked a threat but the faithful must have thought it was going to be another of those afternoons when a cracking shot from Callum Reilly crashed off the bar and down in front of the goal line to safety. However, Blues appeared to take heart from this incident and pressurised Derby until finally their resolve cracked. Wes Thomas burrowed into the box, stayed on his feet despite the attentions of several defenders before directing a lovely finish past the keeper for a deserved equaliser on 68 minutes. St Andrews finally had something to cheer and a louder roar greeted a fabulous left footed finish by Nathan Redmond who had turned inside, dribbled across the edge of the box before unleashing a pile driver past the hapless keeper. Blues fans’ lament of “we’re winning at home, we’re winning at ho- o- me………..etc” in response to the visitors similar refrain earlier raised a smile. Derby did give it a good go as Blues dropped deeper than was good for the St Andrews’ collective nerve but were always vulnerable on the break. It was a direct ball that proved their ultimate undoing however as the two half time substitutes linked up. Redmond’s flicked on header was well controlled on the chest by the pacy Wes Thomas who lashed the ball home for 3-1. The faithful were able to enjoy the final ninety seconds of time added on relaxed in the knowledge that yes it was three points at home, at last!
The Good: the decision by Lee Clark to change things at half time. It proved decisive.
The Bad: the first half and the officials; dreadful both!
The Ugly: I suspect the mood of the opposition manager, Nigel Clough. He has good reason to be annoyed with the referee but he was consistently bad for both sides.
Birmingham City: Jack Butland 7 Paul Caddis 7 Curtis Davies 7 Paul Robinson 7 Shane Ferguson 8 Chris Burke 5 (Nathan Redmond 45, 7) Callum Reilly 7 (Ravel Morrison 75, 6) Jonathan Spector 7 Wade Elliott 6 Peter Lovenkrands 5 Nikola Zigic 7
Goals: Thomas 68, 90+2, Redmond 75
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Steven Cauldwell, Hayden Mullins, KeithFahey.
Derby County: Adam Legzdins 6 Gareth Roberts 6 Jake Buxton 7 Richard Keogh 7 Paul Coutts 6 Jeff Hendrick 6 Ben Davies 7 (Michael Jacobs 61, 6) Valentin Gjokaj 6 Craig Forsyth 6 Chris Martin 6 Conor Sammon 6
Goal: Davies 40.
Subs not used: Frank Fielding, Conor Doyle, Mark O’Brien, Mason Bennett, Michael Hoganson, Kieron Freeman.
Referee: Simon Hooper 4: I’ve said enough about the officials; very poor performance with indecipherable interpretation of the laws. Derby’s goal should have been disallowed for a clear foul on a Blues defender leading up to it. Lovely finish nevertheless and fortunately it didn’t matter.