I didn’t think I was going to make it to this game but as fate would have it, my last appointment of the day cancelled early doors on Tuesday morning and it made the highly improbable possible. So I jumped into the car at just after 3.30 pm and headed from Guildford for the M25 which turned out to be a car park even at that time of day and by the time I had got through it and up the M40 to Baginton, Chris, little Jack and yours truly had missed the chance of a pre-match curry at one of our favoured restaurants in Balsall Heath. We set straight off for St Andrews and were nevertheless in time for a pint in the Royal George prior to another in the ground along with some food in the form of Chinese chicken stir fry at the Cookhouse which was very good and an excellent substitute.
The team was the same as that which lined up against Wolves; Kiernan alongside Morrison in central defence, Gleeson and Robert Tesche in front of the back four, Cotterill, Fabbrinni and Gray making up the rest of midfield with Donaldson up front. Paul Caddis and Jonathan Grounds occupied the full back berths. It was clear that a smaller crowd was expected and the atmosphere compared to that of Saturday against the old gold and black was suitably muted. There weren’t very many that had made the trip down from Lancashire and the old chant of “You could have come in a taxi!” sprang to mind. Chris also pointed out that those there clearly didn’t like each other as they were so spread out! 😀
The game matched the atmosphere getting off to a slow start from both sides and Blues particularly looked lacklustre. The worrying sign was that every time a ball was launched into our box, a Blackburn head appeared to get there first. It therefore came as no surprise to me when Blackburn took the lead from a corner on 8 minutes which Kilgannon headed simple as you like into the corner of the net having lost his marker. Blues continued to struggle all evening with crosses into the area but in fairness, the Blues defensive unit stuck to the task and toughed it out for the rest of the game but this is an area that clearly needs strengthening over the summer. Blackburn are a big physical side and we still lack collective height and strength and this needs to be addressed for next season. The rest of the half was pretty non-descript to be honest and there was little of note to comment on. It was pretty dire in truth with lots of huffing and puffing but little quality from two sides with nothing to play for.
Things improved after the break with Blues getting after their opponents a bit more and pressing higher and as a unit. This forced errors from a previously comfortable Blackburn team and pressure started to provide promise. Blues were playing with far more verve and commitment and with the best move of the match fashioned by Fabbrini and Gray who slipped in Donaldson beautifully they should have equalised. The striker drew Eastwood in the Blackburn goal and chipped the ball over him. We were up with arms aloft but Marshall somehow managed to scoop the ball off the line, before it crossed it, and Blues were thwarted but not disheartened. Blues threw everything at Blackburn and having gone very close with Tesche, and Morrison and Grounds all going close from a series of corners it was the latter who finally netted from another corner on 63 minutes. Chris had gloomily suggested that we weren’t likely to score from a corner immediately before we did! Blues went for the jugular at this stage and all was set for a rousing finish, until that is Darren Randolph came rushing out to a free kick to punch. It is a basic principle that if a keeper comes out of his six yard box to claim the ball he has to get there; so far so good. The next principle is that he has to either catch it or clear it. If he punches he has to provide height and distance. Sadly, he didn’t quite get to the ball to catch and his punch went straight out in front of him and struck one of his defenders in the back to drop invitingly to Jordan Rhodes standing ten yards out; thank you very much! Of course, the 18 goal striker made no mistake and Blues were 1-2 down in a game they were now dominating. We had had parity for only four minutes! Fortunately, Demarai Gray restored equality with his second in as many games when a cross from the off-colour Cotterill from the right was chested down by the youngster for him to drive past Eastwood for 2-2 with 12 minutes left.
I have to say that it was an exciting finish after that with both sides having chances to win the match. Randolph made amends for his error with a fine save from Rhodes with seconds left and the visitors could easily have scored just before the end on at least two other occasions most notably another good save from Randolph followed by two defensive blocks in a triple let off. Blues went close themselves however and it was the sort of game that we could have won 3-2, 4-2 or lost 2-3, 2-4 so a draw was a fair result in my view. In the end I’m glad I made the long trip up.
The Good: The second half.
The Bad: The first half.
The Ugly: The idiot who ran on the pitch near the end and held up proceedings.
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 5, Paul Caddis 8, Michael Morrison 7, Rob Kiernan 6, Jonathan Grounds 7, Robert Tesche 6 (David Davis), Diego Fabrinni 7 (Wes Thomas), Demarai Gray 7, David Cotterill 5 (Lloyd Dyer), Clayton Donaldson 7.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Jonathan Spector, Lee Novak, Andrew Shinnie.
Goals: Grounds 63 minutes, Gray 78 minutes.
Blackburn Rovers: Simon Eastwood 7, Marcus Olsson 7, Ben Marshall 7, Matthew Kilgannon 7, Thomas Spurr 6, Jay Spearing 7, Corry Evans 7, John O’Sullivan 6 (Tom Cairney) Craig Conway 6, Chris Brown 6 (Rudy Gestede) Jordan Rhodes 7.
Subs not used: Adam Henley, Paul Taylor, Darragh Lenihan, Lee Williamson, Jason Steele.
Goals: Kilgannon 8 minutes, Rhodes 67 minutes.
Referee: James Linnington 3: The referee had a poor game in my opinion. He allowed the Blackburn rearguard free reign against Clayton Donaldson who received absolutely no protection from being mauled, climbed all over and just fouled. He allowed obvious infringements to go unpunished and was over fussy with part and parcel normal physical challenges irritating players and fans on both sides in the process. To his credit he mostly kept his cards in his pocket. This was justified as overall it wasn’t a dirty game; probably just as well.
Bazza KRO SOTV