When I was a very small child, my late Mum used to recite the nursery rhyme; ‘The north wind will blow, and we will have snow, but what will poor robin do then? Poor thing! He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm and tuck his head under his wing! Poor thing!’ Well, it appears that the north wind did blow and snow did indeed come down in my part of the world on the Surrey-Hamphire border in spades. Last evening I had to venture out with a shovel, salt and grit to dig Mrs Bazza out of a trench her tyres had managed to grind into the snowy carpet on the hill leading up to our house. She had a car full of groceries in the boot so just abandoning the vehicle was an unattractive option. With a combination of the implements to hand and the help of one or two kindly neighbours, I managed to get enough grip to gain the brow of the hill and get her car home. One of my work colleagues lives near Basingstoke and her journey home from Guildford took just shy of eight hours having got stuck on the M3 where three articulated lorries had jackknifed. She got home a quarter to midnight; grim to say the least. We had so much snow that Camberley, just up the road from where I live, was mentioned in dispatches on the national weather forecast last night.
I awoke therefore to a white blanket and immediately went on the Blues web site to get up to date news concerning the game; no mention, so I called Chris to find out the state of play. He told me that there hadn’t been a flake where he was! Game on it seemed! The only complicating factor would be the trains which on checking appeared to be running so it was business as usual. Indeed, the train arrived at Blackwater bang on time and I was in plenty of time to catch my connection at Reading. Whilst descending the escalator to the platform, coming on the stairs the other way was a man with his son whom I would estimate would be about 7-8. The kid was wearing a scarf and hat in the pink and baby blue of that lot across the Expressway. Fancy inflicting such things on an impressionable child; there are laws against that sort of thing but there you go, it happens all the time and in plain sight! As my train came in there were more of the deluded getting off. I said to one of them, “Who are you losing to today?” Blinking his single cyclopic eye, he scowled and said, “Who d’yow think?” I smiled at the thought that he had not realised that his answer had implied that he agreed with me! No sense of humour though; they all had faces like smacked arses!
My train arrived at a snowless Coventry at 12.25 and Chris was there to pick me up. We reflected on the fact that the January transfer window had come and gone with Blues resisting the temptation to cash in on Che Adams. I didn’t think that anyone was likely to come up with £15 million to create the sharp intake of breath at boardroom level and besides Blues simply do not have the squad size or depth to allow any of our first team to leave. Tuesday saw a creditable 3-3 draw at Swansea with another wonderful goal by our talismanic young forward. It looked like he had won us the game but heartbreakingly the hosts finally broke our ten man resolve on 94 minutes 30 seconds. Late equalisers like this always feel like a defeat when they go against you and like a win when vice-versa. On reflection, I would have taken a draw at the start of the game but it was disappointing for all that. Great performance though after Pedersen’s dismissal.
After a quick pint in Chris’s pub, we made our way down the A45 to the ground. We hadn’t been to the George for a while and Chris was adamant that this correlated with our lack of a win at home for a while (Stoke was the last time before the turn of the year.) A pint was duly ordered and sunk and it was into the ground for some food at the Cookhouse; Shanghai chicken and chilli with rice. As usual it was comforting, hot, tasty and hit the spot on a bitterly cold afternoon. Suitably fortified we took our seats and Blues started brightly but it was Forest that provided a scare on nine minutes when Joe Lolley struck the post from a comer which was scrambled to safety. However, it was Blues who took the lead four minutes later from a flicked headed pass from Lukas Jutkiewicz to Jota arriving from central midfield. The Spaniard made no mistake with a cool finish past Pantillion into the keepers bottom left hand corner. Blues were playing some neat, incisive football with Forest contributing to the game with swift counter attacking play and defensively Blues had to be on their guard to nullify the visitors’ threat. Both sides had their chances but there was little really clear cut in a nip and tuck first half which on the balance of play and chances, Birmingham just edged.
Chris and I attempted to get a half time drink in the FastPay lane but as usual the speed of service was equivalent to the progress of traffic on the M3 last evening that we gave up and went back to our seats for the second half. The pattern of the first half was repeated but Blues were more on the front foot. Forest remained dangerous and did enjoy a flurry of pressure in the middle of the second period that on another day could have led to an equaliser. However, Blues rearguard of Harding in for the suspended Pedersen, Morrison, Dean and Colin switched from right to left back stood solid and assured with Morrison playing an immense role all afternoon.
The stand out player to my mind was Maikel Kieftenbeld who never stopped running, never stopped closing down all match. There was one outstanding tackle in the first half that lifted the crowd as much as the goals and for me was the moment that stated that there was only going to be one winner of this game. Jota was imperious, Jutkiewicz was excellent and supported the man of the moment, Che Adams admirably but nevertheless deserves special credit for his efforts before being rightly applauded off the pitch by the appreciative crowd when he was replaced by Isaac Vassell late on. Isaac’s little cameo was exciting and full of pace and power and a superb through ball to him by fellow substitute, Craig Gardner, only failed to result in a goal because of an excellent well timed tackle by a Forest defender. The young forward did wriggle to the byline in time added on and appeared to be felled. With the Tilton baying for a penalty, the rebound fell to Che Adams whose goal bound shot was parried by the hand of Benalouane who saw red for his troubles and the kick was then awarded. The penalty kick was confidently dispatched by Che Adams for his 16th of the season and that as they say was that. A win and three thoroughly deserved points; up to eighth and back above the Vile; my Saturday night sherbet tasted all the sweeter for it! 🙂
The Good: Arguably the best performance over a whole game all season. Thoroughly deserved win and a clean sheet to boot.
The Bad: The level of service trying to get food and drink in the ground. It is truly abysmal and if management at the club are reading this PLEASE sort it out! The rubbish, inefficient, sluggish delivery of food and beverages at St Andrews is costing you turnover and profit. It is in your interests to improve this vital aspect of the match day experience.
The Ugly: The lot getting off the train on their way to the Madjeski this morning. Must have been fun watching that game! 😀
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 7, Maxime Colin 7, Michael Morrison 8, Harlee Dean 7, Wes Harding 7, Jota 8 (Craig Gardner 85, N/A) Jacques Maghoma 7 (Kerim Mrabti 81, N/A) Mikael Kieftenbeld 9, Gary Gardner 7, Lukas Jutkiewicz 8 (Isaac Vassel 78, 7) Che Adams 8.
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Conor Mahoney, Beryly Lubala.
Goals: Jota 13, Adams (pen) 90 + 2
Yellow cards: Kieftenbeld 79, Morrison 90 + 4.
Nottingham Forest: Costel Pantillimon 7, Jack Robinson 7, Alexander Milosevic 7 (Lewis Grabban 60, 6) Yohan Benalouane 6, Saidy Janko 7, Ben Watson 7, Joe Lolley 7, Ben Osborn 8, Adlene Guedioura 6 (Joao Carvalho 72, 7) Matthew Cash 6, Daryl Murphy 6 (Leo Bonatini 60, 6)
Subs not used: Luke Steele, Diogo Goncalves, Claudio Yacob, Pele
Yellow cards: Lolley 22, Benalouane 54.
Red cards: Benalouane 90 + 1.
Referee: David Webb 7; I thought the referee had a solid game and got most things right. I do wonder whether he could have awarded a penalty for a foul on Che Adams in the first half and a number around me felt that Vassel had been felled just before the shot that led to the handball by Forest’s Benalouane on the line for which the penalty was given. This technically matters since had the foul been given the handball is immaterial because it is the first offence that stands and if so Benalouane does not get sent off. Either way it did not affect the result but Nottingham Forest may feel aggrieved. The performance by the officials was several notches above the standard we have witnessed at St Andrews recently and for that we are all thankful I’m sure.