Sorry for the delay posting. I have been out since Baz sent it. Anyway here you go.
Will and I left Guildford at about 3 pm to journey to Baginton to pick up Chris before the onward journey to St Andrews. As fate would have it, Will and I had an invite to the Legends’ Lounge for pre-match dinner and a seat in the directors’ box; very high and mighty we were! 😀 I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jim Longcross for kindly allowing us to take up his seats as with the game moving 24 hours he found himself double booked and picking up his daughter from Heathrow last night won out and rightly so. We were also joined by a mate of mine, Colin who is a Chelsea season ticket holder and Martin, a Manchester United fan. Both were honorary blue noses for the night as they had a vested interest in Manchester City coming up short for obvious reasons.
After dinner, we took our seats in the directors box (oh did I say that already?) just along from Fabio Capello, Franco Baldini, Ray Clemence and Roberto di Matteo; exalted company indeed! I had fun ringing my son Jonny (who had brought a Man City mate of his along for the game) and waving to him from the Gods. The match could not have started any worse for Blues as after only four minutes we conceded the softest goal all season bar none. Tevez fed in Da Silva who was allowed to jink into the box far too easily. Gardner toe ended the ball into the path of Tevez who was simply more alert than our lot and with Jiranek failing to get a robust enough tackle in, the ball bobbled between his legs taking a slight deflection to trickle into the far corner of the net. I cannot describe how awful this goal was and such sloppiness costs points and Blues simply have to find ways of preventing these errors and quickly if we are to survive in the Premier League this season.
We now found ourselves having to chase a game for the third match running but this time it was against a very good side and I have to confess that I feared the worst. Blues recovered their composure however and after 15 minutes Zigic forced Hart into a smart save as Blues began to gain a foothold in the game. It was interesting to see that having scored early Manchester City dropped off and defended with five across the middle inviting us on to them and hoping to counter which of course they were more than capable of doing in an instant. This is very much the Italian way in accordance with the personality of their manager but as they have often showed this season Manchester City have frailties that sides Roberto Mancini served with such distinction as a player did not have and they do not defend with such resolution. This always gives opponents in this league a chance and when Blues were awarded a free kick out on the left, a fiercely whipped in ball from the excellent Bentley was touched past Joe Hart by Nikola Zigic for the equaliser after 23 minutes.
A horrible incident saw Micah Richards stretchered off not long after this as Blues pressed forward. As he came flying in to head clear from the edge of the box with Barry Ferguson threatening, he crashed into Nigel de Jong with a sickening crunch of skull on skull to leave the defender unconscious and his team mate bleeding heavily from a cut. A full five minutes elapsed whilst the medical team attended to the fallen player. Toure came on for Richards and the game resumed with the visitors stepping up the tempo again and once again looking dangerous going forward. A clumsy challenge on the edge of the 18-yard line by Gardner on Edin Dzeko conceded a free-kick in a very dangerous area. There was a foul on Ferguson just before this incident that the referee missed and it proved costly for Blues. Aleksandar Kolarov’s stepped up and curled a beautiful free kick round the wall at such pace that Ben Foster had no chance of saving it.
Despite 7 minutes of time added on, Blues were unable to restore parity again before the break.
Vieira came on for de Jong at the start of the second half as Blues attempted to salvage something from the game. They moved the play up the pitch and increased the tempo in keeping with recent matches against West Ham and Coventry. There was a more direct approach into Zigic but with the greater urgency they mixed it up with some slick football that made for an entertaining game. Jiranek missed a good chance on 57 minutes after Roger Johnson had headed a far post cross back to Gardner who set up the centre-back only for him to kick fresh air to the groans from the Tilton.
Blues were running the risk of being hit on the break as they pressed high up the pitch and the game should have been put beyond doubt when Tevez, got through on a diagonal burst one on one with Foster only for the keeper spread himself and save well. Phillips and Jean Beausejour came on latterly as Blues went for broke and the game played at high pace went end to end. Then salvation occurred with 13 minutes left. Blues were awarded their first penalty in the league this season! I thought the referees’ association must have had a bet on us not getting one this campaign. It was a clumsy challenge by Vieira and he clattered into Phillips who frankly was too quick for his fellow veteran. Mancini can complain all he likes but Vieira has only himself to blame. Kevin Friend, the referee was well placed and awarded the penalty immediately and had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Gardner claimed the ball from Phillips and went for power slamming a fierce shot high into the roof of the net to give Hart no chance. Blues nearly nicked it in the last minute when Phillips went close with an opportunist volley which took a deflection. Hart, backpedalling, just managed to tip the ball over. Blues finished on the front foot and looked the more threatening but they nearly lost the game right at the death when Kolarov curled a powerful free-kick just inches past the upright with the very last kick of the game. It was close but not close enough and a winner by the visitors would have been harsh on Blues in the final analysis. A 2-2 score line was fair as in the end neither team did quite enough to justify all three points.
The Good: The game; it was an excellent match in which Blues for their part played well.
The Bad: The first goal we conceded. It was awful!
The Ugly: The first goal we conceded. It really was awful!
As a postscript, the injury to Micah Richards was a sickening sight and I am sure that I represent the vast majority of those present last night in wishing him a speedy recovery with no serious long term damage done.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Foster 6, Carr 7, Ridgewell 5, Jiranek 7, Johnson 6, Bentley 8, Ferguson 6, Gardner 7, Zigic 7, Jerome 6 (Phillips 70, 6), Bowyer 6 (Beausejour 75, 6). Not used: Doyle, Fahey, Hleb, Davies, Larsson.
Goals: Zigic 23, Gardner (pen) 77.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart 6, Richards 6 (Kolo Toure 37, 6), Kolarov 8, Kompany 7, Boateng 6, de Jong 6 (Vieira 45, 5), Milner 6, Barry 7, Dzeko 7, Tevez 6, Silva 7. Not used: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Jo, Guidetti.
Booked: de Jong 27, Kolorov 45+2.
Goals: Tevez 4, Kolorov 41.
Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 5 – missed a clear foul on Ferguson just before Gardner’s infringement on Dzeko which led to the visitors’ second goal and there was a hand ball against Carr that Blues were very lucky to escape ten minutes before our penalty was awarded. Otherwise he was OK.