First of all, before I forget my manners in the desolate gloom that is our football season, I hope all of you that read this drivel had a wonderful Christmas although the events of Boxing Day, unless you were like me and asleep, couldn’t have improved the mood. Here we are bottom of the league at Christmas and with our rate of scoring which is 0.5 goals per game but in reality nil for the majority. Unless we can rectify this matter and rapidly, we have no chance of avoiding the drop this time. There are the siren calls for Steve Cotterill to go but frankly, I do not believe it will make one iota of difference to the final fate. The experience of many clubs who get into the habit of changing managers like underwear bears that out plus the fact it is very costly paying up contracts draining much needed resources.
My son, Ben has been home for Christmas and we caught the train to Guildford from Blackwater to be picked up by Will and little Will for the onward journey north. We were going to stop off in Baginton to pick up Chris and little Jack but it was touch and go whether Chris would go and in the end wasn’t able to come as he wasn’t very well, full of catarrh, racked by a nasty cough and a chest rattling like a barrel organ. Nevertheless, his season ticket was going to come in useful and given that none of us was averse to rifling through the pockets of a stricken man, that was what we resolved to do. We were happy to listen to his best Marlon Brando “I could’ve been a contender, I could’ve been somebody!” speech. We arrived at Baginton at about 13.00 picked up the ticket, grabbed a quick pint and set off down the A45 for the final leg of the journey. We had time for another scoop at the Happy Abode before grabbing a bite to eat at the Cookhouse (Jasmine rice with rendang beef) before taking our seats.
The match itself turned out to be one of Blues’ best overall performances of the season. The first half was largely spent in the visitors’ half and Blues forced a number of corners and free kicks around the box but as has been the problem so often this term, the delivery from them was poor and in the January window, a playmaker that can provide better service for Gallagher or Lukas Jutkiewicz must surely be a priority. In fairness, despite the fact that Leeds were put under considerable pressure, Wiedwald in the Leeds United goal did not have a save to make. What Blues did do well was to press high and prevent Leeds from playing out from the back which resulted in a lot of second balls for the home team.
One of the worries one has as a Blues fan is that a good performance in the first period represents the ‘good’ half and the next 45 minutes will be the ‘bad’ half and the opposition will take their chances. Today was not one of those occasions. Blues continued in the same vein after an initial flurry from the visitors in the first ten minutes after the break but they never offered much of a threat and the match depended on whether Blues could score. Harlee Dean, assuming the captain’s armband, Morrison having been dropped to the bench, was outstanding in defence and marshalled the home rearguard alongside Marc Roberts. Maxime Colin gave his best performance for Blues so far and Grounds was consistently hardworking as ever. We looked so much more solid than in recent weeks and with Craig Gardner, Mikael Kieftenbeld and David Davis back to their best, Blues bossed midfield. Sam Gallagher back in the side after suspension won everything in the air and ran the Leeds back line ragged ably assisted by Maghoma and Boga on the flanks. However, it was the substitution of Boga for Jota that made the difference. The Spaniard has been a disappointment so far but in his short cameo, he caught the mood of the occasion and five minutes after coming on he picked up the ball on the right flank, turned inside and unleashed a wickedly inswinging, swerving shot from twenty yards. Wiedwald could only parry it towards the incoming Jacques Maghoma who thumped a side footed effort high into the net to take the roof of St Andrews. The joy and delirium of a goal to reward the endeavour was tangible and it only remained for the faithful with “Keep Right On to the End of the Road” echoing in their lungs to roar Blues on to a thoroughly deserved victory.
The only really scary moment was just before we scored when Leeds broke on us and found themselves two on two. Substitute, Saiz Alonso had the chance which was well saved by Stockdale and flipped up onto the bar and over for a corner with Harlee Dean in attendance just in case it dropped back in play. It was Leeds’ only real chance and it would have been a travesty had they scored it. After four minutes of time added on at the end the final whistle blasted and Blues had the points; Happy New Year everyone! 😀
The Good: The overall performance as well as the win obviously. At half time, a list of names of Blues fans that had passed away in 2017 were read out. Applause accompanied that list including the Leeds contingent. This was a lovely touch and is a reminder of just what is important in life.
The Bad: The fact that Chris was under the weather and couldn’t join us for this one.
The Ugly: 2017 from Birmingham City’s point of view! I do so hope that the New Year is better; it needs to be!
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 7, Maxime Colin 7, Harlee Dean 7, Marc Roberts 7, Jonathan Grounds 7, David Davis 7 (Cheick N’doye 87, N/A) Jacques Maghoma 8 (Emilio Nsue 88, N/A) Craig Gardner 7, Jeremie Boga 7 (Jota 79, 7) Mikael Kieftenbeld 7 Sam Gallagher 8.
Subs not used: Conor Trueman, Stephen Gleeson, Michael Morrison, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Goals: Maghoma 83.
Yellow cards: Grounds 65.
Leeds United: Felix Wiedwald 7, Luke Ayling 6, Pontus Jansson 7, Liam Cooper 7, Gaetano Berardi 6, Conor Shaughnessy 6, Kalvin Phillips 6 (Mateusz Klich 69, 6), Pawel Cibicki 5 (Saiz Alonso 55, 6) Pablo Hernandez 5, Ezgjan Alioski 5 (Pierre-Michel Lasogga 84, N/A)
Subs not used: Andy Lonergan, Jay-Roy Grot, Vurnon Anita, Matthew Pennington.
Yellow cards: Cooper 50, Roofe 57.
Referee: Tim Robinson: 6; I didn’t hear too much griping about the officials which is generally a good sign that they did OK. They say that the referee has had a decent game when he isn’t noticed too much; this was one such occasion.
Attendance: 21,673 (2,484 away fans)