The Beast from the East was back just in time for the weekend it seemed and indeed on rising early on Saturday morning and taking my first view outside snow was falling which began to get worryingly thick. Nevertheless, faint heart never won fair lady and I called Will to make sure that conditions weren’t bad where he was. He stated he was standing on the touch line of the football pitch that little Will was playing on and he said it was cold, no fun and yes the weather was rubbish but we arranged to meet in Guildford at 11.15 regardless. I ordered a ticket for my son, Jonny on line and we both set off for Guildford for pick up by Will at the appointed time.
The snow had stopped and largely thawed by the time we were on the M25 and so hope sprung eternal. The forecast was for a blustery cold day, 0 degrees with a wind chill factor of -8 degrees and it was to be hoped that the poor weather would drag our opposition down to our level! Hull of course have miraculously come into a run of form, winning three on the spin, 10 points out of the last 12 and don’t forget they gave us a 6-1 pasting up at their place so optimism was not in great supply. Our inability to score goals has cost us dearly because we fear the worst when the other lot score as they inevitably seem to do because we can’t keep a clean sheet either! This was the case against Middlesbrough last Tuesday when the only thing they contributed to the game was to nick a scrambled goal and wait for the final whistle despite our best efforts. They didn’t deserve to win but there you go, that’s football for you. Until last week against Cardiff when we actually pulled two goals back from a hopelessly lost 3-0 half time position, we hadn’t shown any inkling so far this season that we could come back from any form of reversal. We gave ourselves too much to do however and it was yet another game with the Eurovision ‘null points.’
We progressed north to Baginton to pick up little Jack. Chris was not going to join us for this one as he’d had a better offer and was off to France for a few days with his wife, Gayle. After a quick scoop at the Baginton Oak we set off again down the A45 to St Andrews. The food at the Cookhouse was cottage pie with chunky vegetables which was very welcome on such a cold day. The crowd had responded to calls to get behind the boys, helped by the ticket price reduction to £10 for an adult. The game started with the atmosphere more of hope than expectation but Blues started enterprisingly. Despite a near blizzard and blustery afternoon which in fairness did brighten up in the second half, Blues put in their best home performance by far this season. The tempo of the match was established early on when from a poor goal kick, Che Adams found himself through on goal but their keeper, Allan McGregor made amends with a great stop. He was to prove to be their best player of the afternoon and brought off a smart save closing down the space well to deny the young forward who was unable to produce the necessary elevation to beat the custodian.
There were to be further saves from Jota and Maghoma and a truly sensational stop from an overhead kick from Adams from a chip from Jota from only five yards which he managed to turn round the post. However, he stood no chance in the 12th minute when Che Adams did well to nip in ahead of Michael Dawson out on the right and find space out wide to get to the byline. Three players burrowed into the box and Adams’ cross found Jota whose low drive into the bottom corner sent St Andrews into raptures, so few times have they had such a thing to celebrate; this thing called a Birmingham goal! It really should have been two a couple of minutes later when Kieftenbeld eight yards out leaned back on the shot and his effort fired over. Hull did very little other than repel repeated Blues attacks but they did come close when Harry Wilson fired narrowly wide across goal when Sebastian Larsson fed him a pass into the box on 26 minutes. However 1-0 at half time did not reflect the domination that Blues enjoyed in the first period. Had it not been for their goalie, it could easily have been four or five. Jota also put a free header from close in, just before the break, over the bar when he should really have done better. The Hull rearguard were struggling to cope with the pace and movement of Adams, Maghoma and Jota ably assisted by overlaps from Maxime Colin who had a good game along with many others including Wes Harding who acquitted himself well in his first league start of the season.
The second half started well for Blues as Che Adams improved the score line by netting from wide on the left. He twisted and turned to eventually make space for a cross which sailed over the keeper’s head for 2-0 on 47 minutes. It was a fluke but we’ll take it! I would state at this point that Will, Chris and I had had a fiver each on Blues to win 2-0 at 17/1. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen and for the first time in an age, Blues scored a third not long after to kill the wager when Jota netted his second having just previously been denied by yet another excellent save from McGregor. Finding himself in splendid isolation in the middle of the box with the Hull defenders standing like statues, it was a simple matter of sliding the ball under McGregor for 3-0. After that Hull City never really threatened; apart from a free kick from 25 yards by ex-Blue Seb Larrsson 20 minutes from time, I can’t remember an attempt in anger on target from them. They huffed and puffed a bit towards the end but never really looked like scoring. In fairness to their fans they kept singing until the end but were ultimately condemned to traipsing out disconsolately towards their coaches, cars and trains at the end. We should spare a thought for what must have been a long, bitter journey back up north with worsening weather. Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see the other lot miserable for a change; it’s been us more often than not this season hasn’t it? Blues were the better side throughout the game and ran out worthy winners.
The Good: The performance; complete domination of the opposition and maintained for the whole game. I was surprised to see the stats which showed Hull had 62% possession! It just goes to show how little that matters when a team does so little with it. This was some retribution for the pitiful showing at Hull earlier in the season.
The Bad: The weather; the snow and swirling conditions did not spoil the game however. Blues coped with it better than their opponents. Gardner’s injury; it looked to be a hamstring strain.
The Ugly: Will’s face when we lost the bet! 😀
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 7, Wes Harding 7, Maxime Colin 8, Michael Morrison 7, Harlee Dean 7, Craig Gardner 6 (Cheikh N’Doye 28, 7) Mikael Kieftenbeld 7, Jota 9, Che Adams 9, Jacques Maghoma 7 (Jeremie Boga 76, 6) Lukas Jutkiewicz 7 (David Davis 83, N/A)
Subs not used: Tomas Kuszczak, Jason Lowe, Marc Roberts, Steve Seddon
Goals: Jota 12, 59, Adams 48.
Yellow cards: Harding 10,
Hull City: Allan McGregor 8, Max Clark 6, Ondrej Mazuch 6, Michael Dawson 6, Ola Aina 6, Sebastian Larsson 7, Markus Henricksen 6, Harry Wilson 6 (Kamil Grosicki 76, 5) Jackson Irvine 6 (Frazier Campbell 57, 5) Jarrod Bowen 6, Abel Hernandez 5 (Jon Toral 73, 5)
Subs not used: Michael Hector, Fikayo Tomori, David Marshall, David Meyler.
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Tony Harrington; 7: I thought the officials had a decent game. The man in the middle refereed the match sensibly in poor weather and gave latitude to the players accordingly. He correctly gave just one yellow card for a late tackle by young Wes Harding when Craig Gardner played the young defender into trouble with a poor back heel pass in a position that could easily have led to Hull breaking on us with an overload.