Happy New Year everyone. Saturday morning broke to dismal lashing rain and a chilly breeze. My youngest son, Ben was home for a few days and had expressed a wish to take in a game and so it was that I woke him up at just before nine suggesting it was time to rise to be in plenty of time to get down to the station for the 10.31 train. One bleary eye looked back at me followed by another finally followed by a turn over and snorts of disinterest. It was clear that Ben was not going to be joining me for this trip after all. I grabbed breakfast and a coffee and decided to watch the early overs in the second test match against South Africa. It was 69-1 when I left with Alistair Cook the only casualty to a brilliant slip catch that sometimes just gets you out. Morris, in for Dale Steyn grasped a ball going like a steam train, diving to his left three inches from the turf and a sure boundary otherwise; take a bow son!
The weather forecast suggested a very wet day and whilst it made the walk down to Blackwater miserable, I could not help sparing a thought for the poor people in the north of England and Scotland whose homes have been flooded, some repeatedly over the festive period. It made my short period of discomfort pale into insignificance really. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have several feet of sewage laden water pour through your home; it must be devastating and any of you reading whose family or friends have been affected by this, I am sure I am not alone in extending my heartfelt sympathies.
I arrived at Coventry train station as usual at just before 12.30 but Chris was running late and He suggested I get a cab to the Festival at Stivichall which I did and enjoyed a bit more of the cricket over a couple of scoops. Eventually, Chris appeared and we proceeded down the A45 to St Andrews for another pint in the ground as we hadn’t time to visit the Royal George. The food in the ground was pork bap with stuffing which went down very nicely.
The team was unchanged from Monday’s victory against MK Dons. However, there was no Demarai Gray on the bench; he was allegedly at Leicester undergoing a medical. The first period was fairly cagey from both sides with Brentford enjoying the majority of the possession. However, as we have got used to this season, we kept the away team playing in front of us and denied them time and space in the final third. For our part we didn’t look as assertive as we had done against MK Dons but Brentford are a better side than them to be fair so Blues had to work hard and do the basics well. A worrying development occurred just before the break when Clayton Donaldson stayed down after a heavy challenge clutching his loin. After getting up he was soon down again and it became clear that he wasn’t going to be coming out for the second half. James Vaughan indeed replaced him.
The second period was a better watch and after a bright start from the visitors, Blues took the lead after a lovely through ball played into the path of Maghoma by Toral in the inside right position. The wide man drilled the ball under Button for 1-0 to the delight of the St Andrews crowd on 55 minutes and it was a case of game management from then on but Brentford responded well and carved out a glorious one on one chance only for Alan Judge to fluff his lines by blazing the chance over the bar with Blues defenders trailing in his wake. Blues failed to heed the warning and after a sustained period of pressure, Blues conceded a free kick about 40 yards out that in truth I felt shouldn’t have been given. From the resulting kick a fierce drive by Alan Judge from fully 35 yards was parried out in front of him by Kuczcak presenting an easy tap in for Philipp Hofmann. Whilst the goal was a deserved equaliser it was galling to concede from a poor free kick decision and then from a costly goalkeeping error.
Chris had said to me before the game that he would accept a draw and that looked the way of things until with a minute to go and Brentford fancying their chances of a win themselves, substitute, James Vaughan latched onto a pass in the inside left channel from Kieftenbeld who had broken up the play in our defensive third originally, driven into the opposition half before popping it off to the forward. With Vaughan in possession, and burrowing into the box, I thought he had taken too wide but his cross was turned in by the on rushing Kieftenbeld who had continued his run all of 70 yards for the win. Did we deserve it? Probably not but like all supporters I’m happy to take the points on offer. We’ve been done at the last enough times so it’s swings and roundabouts.
A really good win against a greatly improved Brentford side who are progressing well and getting established at this level. As for us it would appear that our much lauded young starlet, Demarai Gray is on his way to Leicester. It will be interesting to see if he gets a game. Hopefully, with the money we get for him Gary Rowett will be able to strengthen us sufficiently to turn us from possibles into probables. Whatever happens, like our opponents today, we have made progress in the last twelve months.
The Good: The win. This was a really good result in the context of everything the club has been through with injuries and the relatively poor run we’ve had. Three back to back wins at home has lifted us back into contention for a playoff place and we beat a form side here vastly improved on the team we defeated earlier in the season down in London.
The Bad: The injury to Clayton Donaldson. Let’s hope it’s not as long lasting as the last one. The other worry was Jacques Maghoma when he went off. He was clutching the back of his thigh. Please let it not be a serious hamstring tear.
The Ugly: Toral’s tackle at the end of the first half. It probably looked worse than it was but I reckon he was lucky he only got a yellow card. Some referees would have dismissed him.
Birmingham City: Tomas Kuczcak 6, Paul Caddis 7, Michael Morrison 7, Paul Robinson 7, Jonathan Grounds 7, Viv Soloman-Otabor 6, Maikel Kieftenbeld 7, Jon Toral 6 (Andrew Shinnie 83, N/A) Stephen Gleeson 7, Jacques Maghoma 7 (David Davis 70, 6) Clayton Donaldson 7 (James Vaughan 45, 7)
Subs not used: Adam Lezgdins, Jonathan Spector, Shane Lowry, Nicolai Brock-Madsen.
Goals: Maghoma, Kieftenbeld.
Yellow cards: Toral, Grounds, Kieftenbeld, Vaughan.
Brentford: David Button 7, Maxime Colin 6, Harlee Dean 7, Jake Bidwell 6, Ryan Woods 7, Alan Judge 7, Toumani Diagouraga 7, Lasse Vibe 6 (Philipp Hofmann 64, 7) James Tarkowski 7, John Swift 7 (Josh McEachran 75, 6) Sergei Canos Tenes 6 (Akaki Gogia 80, N/A)
Subs not used: Saunders, Bonham, O’Connell, Yennaris.
Yellow cards: Dean, Tarkowski.
Referee: Graham Scott 6: A bit of a mixed performance from the man in the middle. I thought, luckily for us as it turned out, that he was a little lenient with cautions and Toral was lucky not to take an early bath for his tackle on Jake Bidwell at the end of the first half and there were several free kicks given that were dubious but in the end the result wasn’t affected.
Attendance: 17,555 (1,237 away fans)