I was up early in order to have breakfast at leisure and to catch a bit of the cricket before setting off for the station. I was rather hoping that England would knock over the last couple of South African wickets cheaply but Quinton de Kock was playing a fine innings with tail ender support and it looked unlikely when I switched off. I caught the usual train at 10.31 (no delays this week!) and was soon in Reading for my connection to Coventry.
It was back to St Andrews after the exhilaration of last Saturday at Derby. Another performance like that one and I was confident of another win and another three points but of course this is Blues we’re talking about and we are playing at home; what could possibly go wrong? Anyway let’s blow away all negative feelings and concentrate on the here and now. This was an important game with Ipswich sitting two points and one place above us just outside the play off places. A win for Blues and with results going our way we could conceivably be back in there come five o’clock. However, this was no time to speculate and jump too far ahead; one game at a time as the saying goes.
Talking of speculation it was interesting to read on Friday that there was a possibility of bringing in Diego Fabrinni on a permanent deal subject to Middlesbrough landing their big money targets in this window. It seemed a bit of a convoluted story since his loan deal from his parent club would have to be cancelled in addition to other deals going through but there did appear to be a bit more to this tale than hot air and rumour which made it a little more interesting compared to the usual froth that is generated this time of the year. Coupled with the story about Andrew Shinnie going out to Rotherham on loan, could this story have legs? At least Gary and his staff had signed new deals.
Anyway, back to the present; any team managed by he who can smell round corners is going to present a tough uncompromising prospect and I was in no doubt that we were in for a hard game. I expected that Gary Rowett would select the same or similar line up that was so exceptional last week. Buckley came in for Jacques Maghoma who was ill but Gleeson and Kieftenbeld kept their places in midfield. Davis was operating out in a wider position than usual and he is the one player whom I thought did not have the best game tending to give the ball away cheaply and misplace passes throughout the afternoon but that does not decry the effort he put I along with the rest of the team.
I was looking for a similar performance to last week and I am delighted to say that overall that is what we got. The first half was a case of sparring; Ipswich did have a couple of headers and a shot from distance over the bar but it wasn’t one way traffic by any means and Blues gave as good as they got with Gerken having to stop a smart shot from Toral before Blues did score on 23 minutes deservedly taking the lead when Grounds created a good position on the left but his shot was blocked. The ricochet fell to Clayton Donaldson whose goal bound shot was saved by Gerken only to present a tap in for debutant Will Buckley who played Johnny on the spot for 1-0. With half time approaching I ventured towards the catering area as it was my round but seconds before the break, Douglas was horribly late on Buckley and Mr Bull marched over to the assailant purposefully and brandished an instant red card. My first impressions were that it was a bad tackle, high, late and reckless and according to the letter of the law a case for dismissal. I note on one of the Ipswich blogs that a poll showed that the majority felt the red card was justified. A number of fellow noses around me, including Chris at this point felt the red card was a little harsh but I will reserve judgement until I’ve seen the footage.
Ipswich to their credit gave it a go in the second half despite conceding another two cracking goals. The second by Toral was simply sublime and the type of strike that makes going to football matches worthwhile. A route one punt from Kuzczak flicked on by Donaldson was exquisitely volleyed past the helpless Gerken on the volley by Jon Toral from just outside the area into the top corner. Get hold of the online footage because this is worth the admission fee! 53 minutes and Blues were 2-0 to the good against ten men but Ipswich didn’t roll over; far from it, they carried on taking the game to the home side and I have to say their fans were magnificent staying with their team despite the fact that everything was going against them at this stage. They put a lot of energy into a seemingly lost cause but the third goal on 70 minutes, another superb volley into the bottom corner by Kieftenbeld to add to the worldly he scored last week put the game to bed. A glorious through pass to the excellent Buckley hit the winger on the heel but the ball was recycled and dropped to the Dutchman whose shot rifled past Gerken for 3-0. It is rare for Blues to beat the Tractor Boys so emphatically which makes this win all the more one to savour. Bravo Blues, please carry on this great work; Bristol, away next week; please don’t break my heart! We surely cannot play as badly as we did against them at St Andrews earlier in the season, can we?
The Good: It would be easy to say another great win and wonderful goals but I feel this week’s accolade has to go to the Ipswich fans. They never at any stage gave up on their team even when they were well beaten. The support they showed despite everything going wrong was exemplary; well done the men and women of Suffolk, I salute you!
The Bad: If I’m being picky, I felt that we gave the ball away cheaply at times but it is a minor niggle.
The Ugly: Nasty tackle at the end of the first half that led to the sending off; it deserved the ultimate sanction on review.
Birmingham City: Tomas Kuczcak 7, Paul Caddis 7, Michael Morrison 7, Paul Robinson 7, Jonathan Grounds 7, David Davis 5, (Charlee Adams 88, N/A) Maikel Kieftenbeld 8 (Viv Soloman-Otabor) Jon Toral 9 Will Buckley 8 (James Vaughan) Stephen Gleeson 8, Clayton Donaldson 7.
Subs not used: Adam Lezgdins, Jonathan Spector, Shane Lowry, Nicolai Brock-Madsen.
Goals: Buckley, Toral, Kieftenbeld.
Yellow cards: Robinson, Gleeson.
Ipswich Town: Dean Gerken 7, Jonas Knudsen 6, Luke Chambers 6, Tommy Smith 6, Christophe Berra 6, Jonathan Douglas 5 (S/O 45+ 1) Cole Skuse 7, Daryl Murphy 7 (Luke Varney 78, 6) Ryan Fraser 6, Kevin Bru 6 (Luke Hyam 46, 6) Freddie Sears 7 (Brett Pitman)
Subs not used: Bartosz Bialkowski, Paul Digby, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kevin Foley.
Yellow cards: Smith.
Sent off: Douglas.
Referee: Michael Bull 6: I thought the referee was OK for the most part. Undoubtedly, the Ipswich fans will fee hard done by but Ipswich were pretty physical and came to Birmingham with a rugged game plan. The price you pay for such tactics is that it only takes one mistimed tackle and you risk being reduced in numbers which is what happened. Whilst I sympathise to a certain extent with the visitors, they were beaten by the better side on the day and that was not the referee’s or his assistants’ fault.
Attendance: 18,272 (1,887 away)