I find nowadays that even though I haven’t got to get up to go to work that I still seem to wake up early at just after 06.00. At this time of the year it’s dark outside at that time but it makes no difference to my circadian rhythm and I’m wide awake regardless. The lack of light is the reason that the clocks change of course to allow the kids to go to school in the lighter conditions for as long as possible in return for the nights to rapidly draw in. It took until just after eight o’clock for the dawn to finally complete and I was surprised to see a still, clear, bright morning with gentle sunshine and a clear blue sky despite the weather forecast of windy, cold, miserable conditions. It was Saturday again and the games are certainly coming thick and fast after the excitement of Tuesday night. The win against Reading was excellent and I did actually get to the game. It was a red letter day in truth because Will had arranged a box in the family stand near the Tilton end on account of the fact that for little Will’s birthday, Will had applied for a mascot package and the little man didn’t know until the last minute. He had thought he was being treated to a tour of the ground, meet one or two of the players and as it turned out Gary Monk and then watch the game as usual.
You can imagine the thrill of a full set of kit, a training session on the hallowed turf before the game culminating in walking out proudly onto the pitch accompanied by Gary Gardner! Moreover, Gary Gardner scored our opener and his first for Blues early in the second half to set us on our way for our third win on the bounce and ten undefeated. Jutkiewicz’s goal was a sublime finish and from the angle we were at, we we all able to see just how good it was. The only blemish on the night was the concession of their goal which made the last three minutes of time added on a little nervy but the lads held on and we rose up the table to ninth at the time. The Vile lost at Norwich and indeed again last night at QPR so life is looking much brighter. Chris and I won some money at 7/2 on Blues to win and Villa to lose (Get in!!!!!) However, there have been several articles this week suggesting caution and whilst not wishing to rain on our parade, I am bound to say that I agree. Unbeaten runs inevitably come to an end and whilst I hope that it won’t be today against Sheffield Wednesday, the reality has to be faced. It promised to be a tough game this one and no mistake but as Chris said when I phoned him to confirm travel arrangements, there was no team in the Championship that Blues aren’t capable of beating provided they perform as they have been. I caught my usual train and had the luxury of a lift down to Blackwater from Mrs Bazza. Everything went to plan and I arrived at Coventry at 12.25 as normal.
By then, the weather was taking a turn for the worse; it was pouring with rain when Chris and I left the station for The Oak. It was nice to speak to a few old friends whilst I waited for Chris to finish one or two jobs before we left, unfortunately, without little Jack who was meant to be going off to Cornwall with his mother and little brother but didn’t really want to go. He negotiated his way out of that trip but then negotiated his way out of the trip to St Andrews with a strop so Chris and I went on our own and arrived due to delay and heavy traffic just in time to grab a pint and a box of cottage pie (perfect on what was now a chilly day) at the Cookhouse just prior to kick off. We made our way up to our seats and said hello to old acquaintances.
The Owls started much the better and for the first thirty minutes or so were by far the better side. Blues were very lucky not to be 3-0 down by then. In the first minute, Steven Fletcher was given far to much time to shoot and Blues were fortunate to see his 25 yard shot cannon off the post. Sloppy passing, poor pressing, loose tracking etc; you name it, Blues committed the sin and frankly it was no surprise when the visitors took a deserved lead on 19 minutes through ex-Wolves forward Steven Fletcher. A corner to the far post was headed back across goal where another black shirt in the form of Morgan Fox won the next header down to Fletcher who scored the easiest help yourself goal he will get all season inside our six yard box. It could so easily have got worse when Liam Palmer missed a sitter from close range with a left footed strike over the bar. Blues did improve towards the end of the half and had their moments with a shot by Gary Gardner that was well saved by Dawson from the edge of the box and headers by Gary Gardner and substitute, Marc Roberts which should at least have tested the keeper rather than the Gil Merrick end but it was still against the run of play that Che Adams won a tackle in midfield and nudged the ball off to Connor Mahoney. Mahoney, in for the injured Jacques Maghoma was having a mare frankly and most fans around me were saying that he should be given the hook at half time for being so useless. That was until the loanee winger cut inside from the left wing and rifled arguably goal of the day into the top far corner from 25 yards for 1-1 on 43 minutes. It was a sumptuous strike and in my opinion changed the destiny of the game. The half ended all square rather than Sheffield in the lead which their play had frankly deserved.
The second half was a different proposition; Blues started on the front foot and never yielded the initiative. The passing was slicker, the movement sharper and the tempo faster which did not allow Wednesday to pick passes around us and for ex-Villain Barry Bannan to boss midfield. Blues at last gained control of the game and put the away side under relentless pressure. Eventually, the visitors’ defence cracked when a lovely dinked cross from Jota from his weaker right foot perched perfectly onto the head of the Duke who made no mistake with a downward header into the Tilton net for a turnaround 2-1 with only ten minutes left. St Andrews was now rocking. Wednesday to their credit made every attempt to restore parity but following an interesting substitution of Mahoney for Wes Harding which pushed Pedersen into midfield resulted in the Dane making a nuisance of himself by providing Che Adams with a third for Blues and a comprehensive, if flattering win. Six minutes remained on the clock with the addition of four extra in which time Blues were a coat of paint away from 4-1 through Jota whose left footed shot grazed Dawson’s far post; it would have made the score line unrealistically unfair to the visitors who played their part in a good game.
The Good: Connor Mahoney’s goal! A fabulous strike that was the highlight of a disappointing first half performance.
The Bad: The first thirty minutes; Blues were very lucky to not be 3-0 down! As for the defending from the corner; oh dear! The injury to Harlee Dean on 12 minutes.
The Ugly: The big fat bloke in the away end! How can such an ugly specimen of humanity not realise that it was a bitterly cold day? He had his top off, must have been frozen and it was not a great look!
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 7, Maxime Colin 7, Michael Morrison 7 Harlee Dean N/A (Marc Roberts 13, 7) Kristian Pedersen 8, Gary Gardner 7 (Charlie Lakin 87, N/A) Mikael Kieftenbeld 7, Jota 6, Conor Mahoney 6 (Wes Harding 71, 6) Lukas Jutkiewicz 8, Che Adams 8 (Beryly Lubala 90, N/A)
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Viv Soloman-Otabor, Omar Bogle, Beryly Lubala.
Goals: Mahoney 43, Jutkiewicz 80, Adams 84.
Yellow cards: None
Sheffield Wednesday: Cameron Dawson 7, Tom Lees 7, Michael Hector 7, Morgan Fox 7, Liam Palmer 7, Joey Pelupessy 7, Barry Bannan 8, Adam Reach 7, Josh Onomah 7 (Matt Penney 72, 6) Atdhe Nuhiu 6, Steven Fletcher 7 (Lucas Joao 78, 7)
Subs not used: Jordan Thorniley, Joe Wildsmith, Fraser Preston, Liam Shaw, Ashley Baker
Goals: Fletcher 19.
Yellow cards: Pelupessy 68
Referee: Darren Bond 6; I have to say there were some baffling decisions at times and the man in the middle let a lot of grappling go unpunished but at least it was consistent and fair to both sides. On that basis, although on the lenient side, I’m happy to award the officials a reasonable score for a job well done.
Attendance: 23,659 (2,764 Owls)