After exploring ways of getting to this venue by train it turned out it was going to be easier to travel by car. Bank Holiday weekends being what they are meant that my SatNav assiduously avoided the obvious routes taking me the long way round, circumventing the M3 in favour of the A3 and then suggested the M25 was a thoroughly bad idea although I did join it for one intersection before coming off it to pass through all the leafy villages near Heathrow passing up just past Uxbridge and finally joining the M1 at Hemel Hempstead. I was immediately diverted off that because of heavy traffic to join the A5 to Milton Keynes. Scenic though my convoluted journey was it took nearly an hour longer than I had intended and I arrived at the ground at three minutes before kick-off. Now I was told I had to go to the ticket pick up point diametrically opposite to where the away fans enter the ground to collect my ticket and there are section fences to be negotiated making this seemingly simple distance longer than it need be. I got to the collection office to find it locked and was told to go to the main booking office which was back where I came a little way. The bloke behind the counter looked at me as if I had three heads until thankfully a lady who did appear to know what she was doing arrived with my ticket. Another Himalayan hike back to the away end got me into the ground just after fifteen minutes past. I needn’t have rushed for two reasons; firstly the game kicked off eight minutes late and secondly the rest of the first half that I saw was absolutely dire and I would have missed nothing had I shown up at half time!
Gary Rowett had picked the same team as for the three league games prior to this one. The stats say that MK Dons enjoyed 63% of possession but it didn’t seem that way in truth and that was probably because of what they did with the ball which was very little. Most of their play was in front of Blues playing in the iconic ‘German’ kit from 1972. MK Dons passed it side to side and backwards in the main and for all their play they offered very little. They did have a couple of moments; one a clever interchange on the edge of our area which culminated in a chance 16 yards out directly in front but winger, Hall, the one player in the MK Dons line up that impressed me, shot wide. The chance resulted from a poor clearance by Spector who was trying to chip out to Gray but got his bearings all wrong. This allowed the MK midfielders to run back at us and create trouble. They could and should have at least made Kusczsak work rather than allowing him to watch the ball float wide of the post. The second chance occurred when the one and only time they got behind us down the right the shot from Samir Carruthers found the wrong side of the side netting. This was the closest we came to conceding. For our part, Cotterill fired a 20 yard shot wide after picking up on poor play from their back four and Kieftenbeld fired an impressive thirty yard shot but it thumped into the midriff of David Martin in the home goal just before the break. The first period suffered from lack of pace and tempo and given that MK Dons looked a very ordinary side at best I was hopeful that with an injection of va va voom that we could overcome these opponents comfortably. This proved to be the case in the second half.
Before that I found the queues waiting for a drink and a bite to eat impenetrable. Even when I had fought my way to the front it was impossible to get served and the game was about to start and given that I had no time to consume a drink and the food had long since run out I gave up and went back to my seat. The second half started far more brightly with the home side on the front foot initially. Hall continued to cause trouble for Grounds and was unlucky to get caught just offside from their best move of the game when found by Carruthers. Gallagher headed a good chance wide when well-placed but it was Blues who took the lead on 57 minutes following excellent work down the right by Clayton Donaldson whose hold up play was very good all afternoon. He was responsible for both goals setting up the first for Stephen Gleeson who edged man of the match from the centre-forward to my mind. He allowed Donaldson’s cut back to the edge of the area to run across him and Gleeson then swept the ball delightfully chipping the ball across and over the keeper to the opposite far post. The sheer gracefulness of this goal cannot be underestimated; a difficult skill was made to look deceptively easy and this goes down as one of the best goals we have scored for many a month; take a bow son, it was a cracking strike and it is little wonder the team looked so pleased.
MK tried to respond but were kept largely at arm’s length and the hosts were confined to a cross shot from Hodson that was easily saved by Kusczsak and Diego Poyet shot well wide with a long effort born of desperation. Blues wrapped the game and the points up when Jacques Maghoma slipped the ball past Martin on 79 minutes on the counter attack. Maghoma was very effective when he came on and could arguably have had a hatrick in the short time he was on the field. Blues managed the game well from there and in truth this was as comfortable a win as one would like to see despite having so little of the possession according to the stats which only goes to show how misleading they can be; Birmingham City deservedly won this game. One final comment; Demarai Gray was booked following a flare up with McFadzean. I don’t quite know what the provocation was but the youngster gave the defender a full blooded push in the chest with both hands. He was very lucky to escape with a yellow card; we could not have complained had it been red; Gary Rowett will undoubtedly speak to the young man this week since a better, stronger referee would have dispatched him to the dressing room.
The Good: Stephen Gleeson’s goal; worth the admission fee!
The Bad: The journey up; the route home was far more straightforward. Having to trek around the stadium to pick up my ticket; is there really any reason to make visiting supporters do this? How difficult would it be to have a pick up point at the away end? Finally, the catering; MK Dons knew there were a load of us coming and they seemed wholly unprepared. They ran out of hot food and the service was inadequate and slow which for a new, modern ground is unacceptable.
The Ugly: The fat bloke who took his shirt off and ran down the front in celebration of Gleeson’s goal; funny though!
Milton Keynes Dons: David Martin 7, Jordan Spence 6 (Lee Hodson 36, 6), Antony Kay 7, Kyle McFadzean 6, Dean Lewington 6, Darren Potter 6, Diego Poyet 6, Rob Hall 8, Samir Carruthers 7 (Carl Baker 67, 6), Dean Bowditch 6 (Murphy 67); Sam Gallagher 6.
Unused subs: Cody Cropper, Matthew Upson, Daniel Powell, Simon Church.
Bookings: McFadzean, Hodson.
Birmingham City : Tomasz Kuszczak 7, Jonathan Grounds 6, Maikel Kieftenbeld 7, Demarai Gray 6, (Andrew Shinnie, 83, N/A), Stephen Gleeson 8, (David Davis, 68, 6), Clayton Donaldson 8, David Cotterill 7 Jon Toral 6 (Jacques Maghoma 54, 7) Jonathan Spector 6, Michael Morrison 7, Paul Caddis 6.
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Paul Robinson, Nicolai Brock-Madsen, Wes Thomas.
Bookings: Kieftenbeld, Gray.
Referee: Robert Atkin 5: I thought this official was weak and indecisive. He allowed too many players away with soft free kicks especially McFadzean for MK Dons who went to ground far too easily for a bloke built like a brick khazi! He struggled to cope with Donaldson and resorted to buying free kicks. I thought the referee was getting wise to him towards the end of the first half but the antics continued in the second period. I felt he should have red carded Demarai Gray; we were lucky to get away with that one; possibly he didn’t because he would have had to have given a second yellow to McFadzean for whatever he did; clearly something went on. The assistant with the yellow flag didn’t help the man in the middle; far too many incorrect minor decisions.
Pie watch: Simple Simon says; “Dunno, never got one as they had run out. There was also a local brew, Concrete Cow Pail Ale and an alternative dark bitter neither of which I was able to try because the hosts didn’t want to see my penny which I had about me on this occasion; sheeesh!”