It was to be an earlier start than usual as I had to make the 8.02 train from Blackwater. My 93 years old aunt had been in the Good Hope in the week with a touch of heart failure but had fortunately recovered and was now back at home with my disabled spinster cousin, Janet. I felt Auntie Ann would be cheered by a visit and from New Street it isn’t a difficult journey to Butler’s Lane station which is a matter of a couple of hundred yards from there. Unlike last week, the train was running on time and after a change at Reading I was soon in Birmingham and through bandit country to Four Oaks. The weather was also kind with delicate summer sunshine to greet the new day. I arrived at my aunt’s at about 11.00 and after a cuppa, a catch up on all the news, delivery of Janet’s favourite iced buns and some flowers for Auntie it was soon time to make my way back to New Street and the walk down to the ground. I was originally going to come up in the car with Will and little Will but events overtook that plan. I arranged to meet them along with Chris and little Jack at the George which was very necessary as I had everybody’s season tickets! Oh such power in my hands! 😉
Another week had gone by with still no sign of any further additions to our inadequate squad. We all know the deficiencies and you don’t need me to go over them again but I suspect the additions will arrive but it will be in the final week of the window when selling clubs have a reality check and decide that 100% of something is better than 0% of nothing when they realise on September 1st that they have a player they don’t want or need on their books, cluttering up their dressing room, maxing out their squad space and providing burden on their wage bill. Will is convinced that Aden Flint will arrive on Monday or Tuesday next week after the game today; we’ll see if he’s right. The defeat to an ordinary looking Ipswich team was disappointing for all the reasons I gave last week. The win against Crawley Town was welcome and Blues did what they had to which was to put such minnows to the sword but I suspect Bournemouth will be a different proposition whatever team they field. As for today, Bristol City look a tough assignment as their team has been enhanced over the summer and they have been free scoring in an impressive start.
Bristol made an impressive start in this game as well! With less than a minute on the clock the visitors came straight at Blues from the kick off and Famara Diedhiou struck a fierce drive against the bar. The rebound was blocked onto the bar again from Josh Brownhill until at the third time of asking Bobby Reid netted from close range. Birmingham did respond well however and could have been level after ten minutes when Che Adams had a good shot parried away which led to a corner from which another drive from the young forward was headed off the line by left back Joe Bryan (I’m not sure that I would have put my head in the way! Full marks for bravery!) Whilst Blues were playing some nice stuff at times they were still guilty of coughing up possession too easily and it was the visitors who continued to pose problems as a result. Diedhiou twice created shooting chances but fortunately for us he was unable to keep his efforts on target.
Midway through the half, the big Senegalese forward found himself through on goal but Marc Roberts just managed to prevent him getting a clean strike and once again the effort was wide. Blues carried on going forward undeterred and on the half hour a long throw from Roberts led to a partial Bristol clearance finding its way to Craig Gardner on the edge of the area and with a trademark right footed drive, the ball zoomed past Fielding into the bottom corner to the relief of the home support. Despite silencing the raucous away support the goal seemed to spur Bristol City on again and to my mind Blues were lucky to get to the break all square. Morrison made two excellent blocks from Pisano and then Diedhiou which without these body-on-the-line interventions it would surely have been 1-2. We also had David Stockdale to thank for a point blank save from Jamie Paterson’s close range drive and again from the follow up from the rebound. I for one heaved a big sigh of relief at the sound of the whistle. Bristol City were the better side and definitely on top.
Harry Redknapp made two forced substitutions at half time for both Grounds and Davis which may have explained the latter’s lacklustre performance in the first half. Robinson and Kieftenbeld came on in their stead and the replacements seem to galvanise Blues who collectively looked better. Nsue having carved out a good chance for himself should have kept his shot on the floor rather than blazing over the bar. Che Adams managed to get in behind the away team’s rearguard on 56 minutes but his shot was partially blocked. This was I believed because the young striker was going lame. I saw him clutching his hamstring following an innocuous challenge on him in the first three minutes of the half which was an ominous sight. Maghoma stung the fingers of Fielding not long after. Inevitably, Che Adams had to be replaced by David Cotterill on the hour which was a serious diminishment of our attacking threat and how Bristol City did not retake the lead having done nothing for the first twenty minutes is beyond me. In an incisive attack the visitors carved through us like butter and a clear strike from eight yards by Bobby Reid skimmed wide of Stockdale’s far post; this was a massive let off! It would have been harsh but there again, football is if you don’t take chances when on top and the opposition poach one. We were lucky on this occasion and this spurred Blues on. Paul Robinson rolled back the years and from an excellent burrowing run down the left he squared for Donaldson who unfortunately couldn’t get enough purchase on the strike but the resulting deflection fell to Ndoye whose toe poke was harmlessly wide.
On 74 minutes however Blues got the goal their efforts deserved. A wonderful solo run by Maghoma cutting inside from the left leaving four players in his wake resulted in a cracking strike from 20 yards low past Fielding before he could move. Blues looked in control and the possibility of a third goal was on the cards until Kieftenbeld was harshly sent off for a challenge in midfield. It was late, it was reckless despite playing the ball and it was deserving of a card but not a red one. The tackle was one footed and did not endanger the opponent but Darren Bond’s mediocre performance was capped by a decision based on not taking time to analyse the incident properly and having the card out of his pocket before due thought. It was a very poor decision. Blues faced the last ten minutes and the six that were added on a man light but they held on although there was one last scare on 89 minutes when after a fortuitous deflection into his path, Bobby Reid smashed a fierce shot against the near post from the right. On another day Reid could have had a hat trick and the story of the game would have been very different. Bristol City look a good side in these early weeks and I expect them to have a better season than last year. Nevertheless, Blues held on and deserved the win – just!
The Good: The match; it was an entertaining open game. The goals; absolute crackers both of them from Blues. The bit of keepy-uppy skill by Diedhiou on the left flank prior to his shot that hit the bar was a sublime moment; we gave him too much room though!
The Bad: The decision to send Kieftenbeld off. The challenge did not warrant dismissal.
The Ugly: The forced substitutions, especially the sight of Che Adams clutching his hamstring early in the second half. Adams, Davis, Grounds and Jutkiewicz all injured only two games in to the league season.
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 8, Emilio Nsue 7, Michael Morrison 8, Marc Roberts 7, Jonathan Grounds 6 (Paul Robinson 45, 6), Cheikh Ndoye 8, Craig Gardner 7, David Davis 6 (Maikel Kieftenbeld 45, 7), Jacques Maghoma 7, Clayton Donaldson 6, Che Adams 6 (David Cotterill 48, 7).
Subs not used: Tomasz Kuszczak, Robert Tesche, Stephen Gleeson, Wes Harding.
Goals: Gardner 30, Maghoma 74.
Yellow cards: Gleeson 86.
Red cards: Kieftenbeld.
Bristol City: Frank Fielding 7, Eros Pisano 7, Marlon Pack 7, Jens Hegeler 7, Bailey Wright 7, Joe Bryan 7, Korey Smith 7, Bobby Reid 8, Jamie Paterson 7 (Callum O’Dowda 68, 8), Josh Brownhill 6 (Niclas Eliasson 68, 7), Famara Diedhiou 8.
Subs not used: Nathan Baker, Hordur Magnusson, Gary O’Neill, Freddie Hinds, Ivan Lucic.