An autumnal chill greeted the day early on Saturday morning. There was rain in the air as Jonny and I made our way down to Blackwater station. We arrived just in time for the train and soon found ourselves at Reading for our connection to the Manchester train which would take us to Coventry where Chris would pick us up as usual at about 12.30. The train was packed with no seats to be had anywhere and Jonny had a bit to say about the unfairness of it all when you consider the cost of even a standard ticket. I’ve always told Jonny and my other son Ben and my two daughters for that matter, that life is unfair; in fact it’s very unfair and that if any of them is waiting for it to become fair, they’ll wait a hell of a long time. I reckon this philosophy applies to sport as well; it always seems to me that when there’s a controversial decision, it always seems that the bigger, more established, more famous, richer teams always get the call in their favour. Moreover, less successful clubs always seem to have things go against them even when the evidence shows otherwise.
On Tuesday night Blues had Kieftenbeld sent off when they were in the ascendancy in the match and looking the more likely to win. In retrospect, the red card has been rescinded but this hasn’t helped Blues having to mount a rearguard action to salvage a well earned point and possibly the loss of two more at the time. The error made by the officials cannot be undone at this stage. Terry Venables once made the point, when it was suggested to him that luck, the rub of the green, call it what you will, evens itself out, his answer was; “It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.” Having followed sport of many varieties all my life, I have seen enough to suggest that Terry Venables was absolutely right. Gary Monk also received his marching orders for expressing his views on the incident which he clearly saw. Telling the referee that he was incorrect is one thing but swearing at him is quite another even if in the heat of the moment it was understandable. I’m afraid that there are clear guidelines regarding the use of foul and abusive language in football and our manager will just have to serve his sentence of a one game touch line ban but some would still argue that the sanction has all come about because of the initial injustice of the poor refereeing decision in the first place; as I said earlier, life ain’t fair!
Chris was at Coventry station as arranged to pick us up and it was back to the Oak for a pint before heading off to the ground. The anticipation and preliminary excitement leading up to the game remains for me the best part of the overall match day experience. I love the banter, the camaraderie, the building of atmosphere outside the ground, on the terraces, the smells of the hamburger stalls, the calls of the programme sellers. All these things I never tire of and form the many reasons I keep going even though the eventual product, i.e. the football, may not match the preamble. It helps I suppose if the Blues win but that hasn’t happened so far at St Andrews this season despite playing well; perhaps today would be the day? Will, whom I spoke to on Friday evening clearly felt so and was predicting a 3-0 win. Will was unable to join us today, jaded from having driven over 1,000 miles this week. He said he couldn’t face the 270 miles round trip this week; a man or a mouse? 😀 Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time to get a pint in the George and another in the ground to wash down the beef rendang at the Cookhouse served with sticky rice. Suitably refreshed we made our way to our seats.
Blues were on the front foot from the off and went close through the Che Adams in the first three minutes firing just wide after an initial attempt was blocked. Blues had a free kick in excellent position just outside the box but Gary Gardner fired well over and the less said about that the better. There was no doubt which side was more likely to score and the deadlock was indeed broken on 20 minutes when a corner taken by Jota on the right found Lukas Jutkiewicz on the far post. His header towards the top corner was allowed to go in because of a weak attempt by keeper Rodak to keep it out. He made a right hash of it in truth but the home fans didn’t care, it was 1-0 and Blues were on their way. Jutkiewicz doubled his tally and Birmingham’s lead three minutes later when’s low pass into Gary Gardner set up a chance for the midfielder to shoot. The attempt was blocked but the ball deflected to Jutkiewicz who from close in made no mistake. Rotherham did have their moments towards the end of the half when they started to get into the game more and following neat work around the edge of our box the defence had to put bodies on the line to prevent Jon Taylor from pulling one back on 35 minutes. Just before the break Lee Camp saved well from a fierce goal bound drive from Manning at the expense of a corner. Blues went to the break 2-0 up, a rare luxury this season.
Blues came out after the break once again on the front foot and should have made better of a chance on 55 minutes when Jacques Maghoma fed by Jota swivelled and struck a shot from 18 yards over the crossbar with Jutkiewicz just to his left completely unmarked and better positioned. Nevertheless, Maghoma nearly extended the lead just on the hour when a lovely pass from Jutkiewicz found the wide man eight yards out. Maghoma miscues his shot which allowed Centre back Vaulks the opportunity to clear off the line with Rodak beaten. The next goal was not too much longer coming when on 67 minutes, Blues were awarded a free kick just outside the area. Rotherham expected the direct curler but Jota rolled the ball sideways to Jutkiewicz who completed a fine display with a low drive into the bottom corner for a deserved hat trick. Despite being 3-0 down, Rotherham to their credit kept plugging away and on 77 minutes after good work down their left flank and a low cross from Kyle Vassell, Jon Taylor slotted home from eight yards for a consolation. That was as good as it got for the visitors and Birmingham had their first home win of the season.
The Good: The win! What is there not to love about it?
The Bad: The fact that little Jack wasn’t able to join us. He was invited to the Wasps v Gloucester rugby union game at the Ricoh. Wasps lost! Ouch!
The Ugly: The looks on the faces of the lot from across the Expressway at the Den! 😀
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 7, Maxime Colin 7, Michael Morrison 7 (Marc Roberts 74, 6) Harlee Dean 7, Kristian Pedersen 7, Gary Gardner 6, Mikael Kieftenbeld 7, Jota 7, Jacques Maghoma 6, (Conor Mahoney 73, 7) Lukas Jutkiewicz 9, Che Adams 7 (Beryly Lubala 90, N/A)
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Wes Harding, Charlie Lakin, Viv Soloman-Otabor.
Goals: Jutkiewicz 20, 22, 67.
Yellow cards: None
Rotherham United: Marek Rodak 5, Joe Mattock 6, Will Vaulks 6, Semi Ajayi 8, Billy Jones 7, Joe Newell 6 (Kyle Vassell 55,7) Ryan Manning 7 (Wiles 63,7) Matthew Palmer 6 (Zak Vyner 88, N/A) Jon Taylor 7, Michael Smith 6, Ryan Williams 6.
Subs not used: Lewis Price, Tyrone Lewthwaite, Anthony Forde, Manny Onariase
Goals: Taylor 77.
Yellow cards: Mattock 50.
Referee: Keith Stroud 7; handled the match in a competent and solid manner. Very little to say other than that.
Attendance: 19,795 (759 away fans)