I had been in Coventry on business on Friday and Saturday morning and had stayed at Chris’s pub in Baginton for a couple of days which was the pleasant part of the trip. I finished what I had to do by 12.00 and got on the road across the M69 to gain the M1 to Rotherham. I was diverted by my helpful SatNav which took me round the road works around the Mansfield area which was a detour I could have done without but I got to the parking spot I had pre-booked about twenty minutes before kick-off. I asked a young Muslim lady who had her little boy with her the quickest way to the ground and she smiled and said that she was going past it and invited me to jump in the back of her car. She dropped me at nearby traffic lights and having thanked her I walked the couple of hundred yards further to the ground and got in in time for kick off. So far so good; Shotton was in at right back in place of Caddis, otherwise the team was very similar to what it had been for weeks.
There is very little of substance that I can tell you about the game other than it was one I truly wished I had missed. It had taken a number of phone calls to the ticket office to obtain a ticket for this one which was sold out in double quick time but I managed to get a returned ticket in the middle of the week and was looking forward to the match. I’m sorry to say this was a right turkey. The first half was devoid of any real entertainment as Rotherham, set up by new manager Neil Warnock, put ten in front of the ball every time we got it and had an obvious ‘thou shalt not pass’ policy throughout. They are scrapping for their lives and their game plan was primarily not to lose the game and if they could nick one to win it, so much the better but I did not believe winning was their primary objective. It made for a very dull watch but it is fair to say Rotherham did have the best chances of the half despite Blues’ territorial and possession dominance. A corner after about half an hour resulted in a completely free header across our goal by Kirk Broadfoot to Derbyshire lurking at the near post. How he missed from barely a yard out is beyond me but thank heavens he did because I believe that we would have lost this match as a result. Derbyshire also brought a smart save out of Kuszczak from a fierce shout from the inside right position but that was about it. As for Blues, Donaldson was a whisker away from finishing a cross shot from Maghoma, the pick of the Blues players on the day that flashed across their six yard box at the other end. Toral also went close but was under pressure from Lee Camp and could only prod wide.
The second half was a little better with Blues completely dominant but we simply couldn’t get behind them often enough and the two occasions that we did, Lee Camp – who was excellent for them all afternoon – saved well on both occasions; the first was a similar chance to Derbyshire’s in the first half from Clayton Donaldson; whose drive into the far post top corner was palmed out and Jacques Maghoma sneaked in behind them with only 13 minutes left but his attempt to lift the ball over the keeper was superbly saved by Camp who had dashed off his line to smother. This was our best chance by far and we were not to create another, apart from a header from Morrison from a right wing corner that scraped the far post with Camp beaten. The most notable incidents were the sending off of the two Rotherham defenders, Richard Wood and Joe Mattock. Wood got his marching orders for two agricultural challenges on Donaldson and both yellow cards were richly deserved. Neil Warnock claimed our striker had made a meal of them; come off it Warnock! They were shocking tackles; you are simply not allowed to just kick people up in the air like they used to back in your day! As for Mattock, he was booked in the first half for a bad challenge but his second card was for time wasting just before the end. Now there is running the clock down and then there is blatantly standing there with the ball making no attempt to restart the game with the throw in Rotherham had been awarded. The time that elapsed was so long that the referee warned him at least twice. It was a ridiculous thing to get dismissed for but it was correct I’m afraid. It made no difference to the outcome as by then there was only a minute or so left.
This was a terrible game, poorly officiated by Mr Clark, the referee and the worst two assistants I have seen all season. This trio let so much go that the match was bound to boil over. Clayton Donaldson was repeatedly fouled as was Maghoma and Paul Robinson received a kick in the head for his pains in the first half and despite his obvious distress as he lay on the ground the officials failed to stop the game for an obvious head injury! This match was so bad both teams were lucky to get nil but in fairness to our lads; they did at least try and win the game but there was far too much time spent with the ball in the air and too much head tennis going on. The total lack of control and quality did not add to the entertainment of this joyless spectacle.
The Good: The kindness of the young lady who offered me the lift to near the ground just before kick-off. The other thing that was good was the fact that this match like all others only lasted an hour and a half!
The Bad: It depends where you want to start; the match, the referee, both assistants and the quality dished up by both sets of players.
The Ugly: The tackles that resulted in yellow cards for the two players dismissed and on our part, those from Kieftenbeld and Gleeson. Afterwards as we left the ground there were some nasty verbal confrontations between rival supporters full of hatred and vitriol which is unnecessary and not wanted. One of our lot was pointing out to local police their failures in protecting local English girls from predatory sexual abuse at the top of his voice. Whilst this may be factual, well documented and in the public domain there is no place for it as it has the potential to incite further trouble. I was glad to get back to the car and away.
Rotherham United: Lee Camp 8, Frazer Richardson 7, Kirk Broadfoot 6, Richard Wood 5, Joe Mattock 5, Chris Burke 6 (Grant Ward 78, 5), Paul Green 7, Richie Smallwood 6, Joe Newell 6 (Greg Halford 78, 5), Matt Derbyshire 6 (Jonson Clarke-Harris 64, 6), Danny Ward 6.
Subs not used: Lewis Buxton, Danny Collins, Alex Cairns, Jerry Yates.
Yellow cards: Mattock, Wood.
Sent off: Mattock, Wood.
Birmingham City: Tomas Kuczcak 6, Ryan Shotton 6, Michael Morrison 6, Paul Robinson 7, Jonathan Grounds 5, Stephen Gleeson 5, Maikel Kieftenbeld 6, Jon Toral 6 (Diego Fabbrini 82, N/A), Jacques Maghoma 7 (Viv Soloman-Otabor 78, 5), Will Buckley 6 (David Cotterill 84, N/A), Clayton Donaldson 7.
Subs not used: Adam Lezgdins, Jonathan Spector, David Davis, Paul Caddis.
Yellow cards: Kieftenbeld, Gleeson.
Referee: Richard Clark 3: This was a very poor performance from this official. He let so many obvious and blatant offences go that players from both sides got frustrated with him. He was not helped by his assistants who were abysmal and got far too many basic decisions wrong. They, as a refereeing unit, killed what was already an attritional, poor game. The referee was correct about the yellow and red cards though.
Attendance: 11,018 (2,614 noses)