Nice to read a happy report from Bazza, things are looking up! 🙂
It was a crisp clear morning as I walked down towards the station. I was beginning to wonder whether I had put enough warm clothing on but it was too late now and I would just have to get myself an impromptu Christmas present at the shop later if necessary. I met a young lady on the station whose accent I recognised. It turned out that she had been brought up in Yardley and had gone to school at Sheldon Heath Comprehensive, a stone’s throw away from where I used to live in Garretts Green. She was a bluenose to boot; it truly is a small world. We spent a pleasant 20 minutes, reminiscing about areas and places familiar to us both before going our separate ways.
What then didn’t help was the connecting train to New Street slipping gradually ever later coming in over 25 minutes late. This meant I was going to miss my connection to get the Lichfield train to visit my elderly aunt and cousin in Four Oaks and therefore be very tight for time. Picture if you will the Nativity scene of Joseph and Mary traipsing through the snow in a red hot country; you know the one don’t you? Well I was the donkey carrying two heavy bags of Christmas gifts and other kit that weighed about as much as the gravid virgin did and altogether a morning that had started off reasonably well was now going decidedly pear shaped (like the gravid Virgin in a way 🙂 )
I didn’t get back to New Street much before 2 pm and Chris fought through the pre Christmas traffic in town to pick me up along Digbeth opposite the Coach Station and it meant we had time for a quick pint in the Royal George before a turkey and stuffing bap in the ground with further refreshment.
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that the game was going to pan out in the way that it did. On three minutes Blues were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area and everyone including me expected Cotterill to attempt a left footed curler into the top corner to the goalkeeper’s left. A smart square pass to Paul Caddis from Jonathan Grounds instead was dispatched into the bottom left hand corner for 1-0. Reading threatened from that set back and should have equalised virtually immediately with a shot from Simon Cox that fortunately was fired straight at Randolph and the keeper preserved our lead with another save not long after. In the first ten minutes, four crosses into our box were won in the air by Reading attackers with second balls going their way as well. Reading could and should have had three quick fire goals before Gray scored the first of his excellent treble with a right footed shot across the keeper from a defence splitting pass from Shinnie on 11 minutes.
My feeling was that despite the 2-0 score line the better football was being played by the visitors and it was no surprise when yet another cross from Jordan Obita that should have been cut out was finally converted by Glen Murray with a looping header past the stranded Randolph for a goal Reading richly deserved.
I feared the worst and thought that the way things were going that Reading would restore parity; such was their control of the game; and increased confidence. Sadly for the visitors, and happily for us, Gray had other ideas as he added his second and Blues’ third on 20 minutes following a poor touch by Jake Cooper which allowed Gray to skip round him and fire across Federici into the bottom corner and a fourth in time added on following a quick break by David Davis who waited for and fed in a well weighted pass for the youngster to complete his hat trick for a 4-1 lead that although welcome seemed barely believable on the balance of play. Had the score been 1-4 in their favour, few would have argued. Don’t get me wrong Blues were fabulous going forward but atrocious at the back ,and the differences between the teams were that Reading’s defending was even worse, and we took our chances and they didn’t.
The second half, Blues were a lot tighter but the thing that killed the game for the visitors was a stunning strike from Andrew Shinnie who had it not been for Gray’s wonderful hat trick would on any other day have claimed the man of the match status. What a transformation in fortunes for this young man since the arrival of Gary Rowett! It just goes to show what can be achieved when a manager gets the best out of players that didn’t look as if they could win against a bunch of five year olds a few short weeks back. Shinnie showed great intelligence and movement to find himself down the inside right position going towards the byline. Caddis and Cotterill carved out the opening to feed Shinnie in. He was allowed far too much latitude to turn inside and fire a left footed shot inside the near post for 5-1.
The stuff of dreams was this and just around the hour mark Blues were awarded a free kick wide on the left flank which David Cotterill stepped up to take with his right foot. Just occasionally I get a premonition that a certain event is going to happen and just before he took it I said “go on son swing it to the far post it might just go in anyway!” Well knock me down with a feather, that is exactly what happened as the Tilton had a close up view of its second and Blues’ sixth goal of the afternoon.
It could have been a seventh not long after when Clayton Donaldson’s shot was well saved by the Reading keeper not long after. Reading were a defeated, demoralised force at this stage but to their credit carried on trying to play football even at 6-1 down and should have had a consolation second goal in the last few minutes when a ball that should have been cleared was allowed to stay in play at the byline. The cut back was perfect, the finish by Murray was against the bar, and as a Reading supporter you know it is not your day!
A really funny thing happened on 80 minutes when Reading wanted to make their final substitution, the announcer said “COMING ON FOR BLACKPOOL!” This was greeted with much merriment and mirth and chants of “Are we Blackpool in disguise?” from the visiting support. The faithful around me were in very good voice by now and as Nikola Zigic joined the fray to much rejoicing it was instantaneously replaced by good natured abuse of the type we used to give him; “Jump! You lazy b*****r! “They’re paying you how much?” and the like, amid much laughter.
Frankly, I try not to read too much into freak scores like this. Seriously, does this mean that Birmingham City have become world beaters? No, definitely not. Does it mean that Reading are a poor team? On the contrary, I felt that they were perversely the better team in the first half but they found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-1 score line; it could so easily have been the same score the other way or 4-4. We rode our luck in defence and we were clinical in attack and that was the difference. Don’t be deceived, Blues have to defend better against Derby when they come to St Andrews on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, well done Birmingham on a superb performance at least in an attacking sense. Defensively? There is a lot of work to do though we were far better in the second half.
The Good: The hat trick from Demarai Gray. Excellent composure from the young man. I hope and I pray that we won’t be forced to sell him in January to a ‘big’ club for his development to go backwards in the reserve eleven of a so-called ‘elite’ team. How many talents have we seen wasted like this especially when they immediately get loaned out to one of our direct rivals? Andrew Shinnie’s performance; take a bow son! The appearance of Nikola Zigic for the last ten minutes; welcome back Ziggy!
The Bad: the defending from both sides! Make no mistake, it is only out of good fortune that we only conceded one goal in the first half. The Reading defending was absolutely shocking; I’m just glad that we were the recipients of such profligacy for once.
The Ugly: Chris’s Decembeard!!!!! Roll on January! 😀
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 8, Paul Caddis 8, Michael Morrison 7, Paul Robinson 7, Jonathan Grounds 8, Stephen Gleeson 7, David Davies 8, Andrew Shinnie 8 (Guy Moussi 78, 7) Demarai Gray 9 (Wes Thomas 88, N/A) David Cotterill 8, Clayton Donaldson 7 (Nikola Zigic 83, N/A).
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, David Edgar, Callum Reilly, Lee Novak.
Goals: Caddis 4, Gray 11, 24, 45 + 1 Shinnie 46 Cotterill 60.
Reading: Adam Federici 6, Stephen Kelly 5 Jake Cooper 5 Michael Hector 5 (Alex Pearce 66, 6) Chris Gunter 5 Garath McCleary 5 Oliver Norwood 5 Daniel Williams 5 (Jake Taylor 80, N/A) Jordan Obita 6 (Nick Blackman 75, 6) Simon Cox 6, Glenn Murray 6.
Subs not used: Aaron Tshibola, Jack Stacey, Mikkel Andersen, Shaun Cummings.
Goals: Murray 19.
Bookings: Gunter, Hector.
Referee: Nigel Miller 6: Very strange performance from the man in the middle. I cannot for the life of me understand why he seemed to have a determination to never give a decision in Clayton Donaldson’s favour. The bloke was continually pushed, pulled, manhandled and at times assaulted and yet I can only remember one free kick being given against the Reading defenders regarding Donaldson and that was in the 72nd minute. Arguably, he let the game flow but the referee’s performance was indifferent at best.