As Bazza was in Kent, looking after the needs of a poorly relative, it fell to me to once again blog as ‘understudy’ to the great View From the South.
I collected, my daughter, Grace, from her bedroom, which is nowhere near Blackwater, and we headed in the
train car to the gloriously secure zone that is ‘Wheels’ to test our ankles over the rough terrain that is the industrial estate-cum-warzone that separates car park from ‘spiritual home’. Grace – fresh from a week’s dance and learning, and me – aged with a lifetime of wear, tear and tears – managed to get to the ground without any hamstring tears and we were ready to sample some of the delights of the Cookhouse… the serving hatch’s sausage rolls. Without any square chips, they DID arrive, however, surrounded by exquisite layers of puff pastry, and were filled with a layer of ‘dauphinoise pork’. No complaints from us to be fair. We weren’t quite hungry enough for the usual Pukka Balti pie (£3.50) so – at £2 – the sausage rolls went down a treat.
The return of Sam Gallagher from injury and Che Adams from suspension (cue brief chat about exactly what suspension was…a nine year old understands it as ‘just like being grounded’) had given us both cause for optimism.
I was so optimistic, I predicted Jota and Gallagher would score! In a 2-1 victory. Grace was going for a 2-2 draw…with previous Blues favourite Clayton Donaldson to score both their goals. “I don’t want them to win, Dad, but he’s really good.” Recent defeats to Bristol City and Wolves were forgotten, we were at home! I wasn’t going to let Grace’s realism get me down 😉
Blues were truly excellent in the first six minutes, Jota missing an early shot, and were somewhat surprisingly behind with just seven minutes on the clock, when Mark Duffy took a potshot at goal that paid off. It would have been saved, nine times out of ten, but it seemed to bobble slightly over the grass, wrong-footed Stockdale and nestled into the far right corner. 0-1. Which was bad. Mark Duffy then decided to show his (lack of) class, by celebrating against his former employers. Now, if Lee Clark was still in charge, perhaps a demonstration to the dug-out would have been warranted, but he decided to show his derision at being annexed from an underperforming Blues team to the Tilton AND the Kop…which earned him a yellow card…which wasn’t so bad…because it instantly gave the second highest attendance of the season something to boo at. Cue the upturn in Blues’ performance.
Jota was an absolute inspiration, tracking back the full length of the pitch, to dispossess a Sheffield player, before trotting the ball back up the other end, to lay in a cross. He was silky and offered everything but a goal. The other ‘stars’ of the show were Maghoma (what a change we’ve seen in him since Monk arrived!) and Wes Harding. Kieftenbeld looked a little reserved, like he may have been carrying a knock, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him replaced by Gardner, against QPR.
On 32 minutes, our comeback was on – after pressuring their box with cross after cross, and getting the ball into so many dangerous areas, but – as seemingly ever – to little effect – Maghoma’s corner met the foot of striker (ahem) Marc Roberts, who made no mistake in beating the keeper with a ball into the top left corner of the net from five yards. A “worldie” and no mistake, that sent the ground into raptures, and renditions of ‘Duffy, what’s the score? Duffy Duffy what’s the score?” This isn’t it, but it’s an actual recording I made that gives a great impression of the atmosphere, which was electric…Keep Right On…
Half Time arrived, 1-1, and the news that Barnsley are level and Bolton are two down is good news for us…
The second half was even better than the first, Sheffield United couldn’t seem to find a way through us. They withdrew Clayts, who was cheered off politely, they withdrew Mark Duffy who had been given dogs’ abuse all afternoon, and he was understandably booed off the pitch. The introduction of ‘name’ Billy Sharp did nothing to aid their blunt attack, and they found they had our problem – no end product whatsoever. In fact, we came closest to scoring again, first through Jutkiewicz then through Harding, whose shot was tipped just wide by Blackman, and then our second goal came, courtesy of a strong run from midfield from Maghoma, who latched onto an excellent ball from the rejuvenated Adams, and lashed the ball in a one-on-one situation with the ‘keeper, straight into the Tilton-side net. Game over, with only 79 minutes gone. In fact, with an injury to Lundstram, we had six extra minutes to add on, but in days of old, that may have led to frayed nerves as we worried it may lead to an equaliser from Sheffield, but my prediction of scoreline if not scoreRS, was to remain intact. It finished 2-1 to Blues, and a very accurate reflection of the game it was too. We were well worthy winners, though it was our own lapse in concentration that had let them in for the goal, so we could have no real complaints about the lack of clean sheet. The announcer tells us after the final whistle that Bolton AND Barnsley have lost…Reading too!
The Good: Seeing Blues come back from a very early setback, boosted perhaps by the crowd getting right behind the lads and right against…
The Bad: Mark Duffy…yes you scored…yes you wish you’d been given more of a chance to prove yourself, but wasn’t scoring enough? Just desserts dished out in the end…
The Ugly: Didn’t I just mention Mark Duffy’s ridiculous goal celebrations? Perhaps a thought, then for David Brooks, who went down injured and looked like needing the stretcher. He did soldier on though, which was probably just as well for his team mates as they were out of subs.
Birmingham City: Stockdale (6); Harding (8), Morrison (7), Roberts (7), Colin (8); Jota (9), Davis (7), Kieftenbeld (6) (Gardner 60 (7)), Maghoma(9); Jutkiewicz (8) (Gallagher 86 (N/A)), Adams (8) (Ndoye 90+2 (N/A)).
Subs not used: Grounds, Dacres-Cogley, Boga, Kuszczak.
Goals: Roberts 32, Maghoma 69.
Yellow cards: Harding (16).
Sheffield United: Blackman (6), Basham (6), Stearman (6), O’Connell (6), Baldock (6), Lundstram (6) (Sharp 59 (5)), Evans (6), Fleck (7), Stevens (7), Duffy (6.5) (Brooks 70 (6)), Donaldson (7) (Wilson 81 (N/A)).
Subs not used: Leonard, Lafferty, Holmes, Eastwood.
Goals: Duffy 7.
Yellow cards: Duffy 7, O’Connell 63.
Referee: Tim Robinson 8: an excellent performance from the official in this match, he set the scene by correctly booking Duffy for inciting the crowd with his over-zealous goal celebrations. He seemed to show good humour to both sets of players when enforcing the rules, and – for the most part – kept his card in his pocket. He allowed Kieftenbeld to dish out some hefty tackles, and punished Harding for his tackle that really did warrant a card. O’Connell’s similarly was deserved. The match wasn’t held up unnecessarily, and the six added minutes can’t have been argued either. Good on you, Ref.
Bring on the ‘Rs, and then…the last match of the season, where – hopefully – we’ll already have confirmed our Championship status ?
Onto prediction time…
24th Sunderland (34 Points) Fulham H Loss, Wolves H Loss, Finish on 34 Points BOTTOM OF THE TABLE ALREADY RELEGATED.
23rd Burton Albion (39 Pts) Bolton H Draw, Preston A Loss, Relegated 40 Points.
22nd Barnsley (38 Points) Forest A Loss, Brentford H Loss, Derby A Loss, Finish on 38 Points RELEGATED.
21st Bolton (40 Points) Burton A Draw, Forest H Draw, Finish on 42 Points – Safe
20th Blues (43 Points) QPR A Draw, Fulham H Draw, Finish on 45 Points – SAFE!
19th Reading (43 Points) Ipswich H Loss, Cardiff A Loss, Finish on 43 Points – Safe and below us 🙂
Keep Right On!