I read Kev’s preview report yesterday, and like him I feel a bit strange not having the knotted stomach and apprehension that comes with needing a win to prevent the dreaded trap door to the oblivion of League 1 – which we have flirted with all too often since our loss of Premier League status. Here we are having reached the magic safety total of 50 points for the second time and can now enjoy the last two games of the season with a lightness of heart and hopefully look to better times from here on.
In complete contrast to the glorious Easter weekend, Saturday dawned to a blustery, grey, chilly and altogether horrible day. I normally like a walk around my humble estate and review new arrival shoots and seedlings with joy and relish and listen to the morning birdsong but it simply wasn’t that kind of day. I sat gloomily in front of the computer and reviewed some of the news items. I never watch breakfast TV news especially from the BBC as what current affairs there is is, is usually biased and/or sensationalised to up the story’s ante rather than let the actual truth get in the way. There are far more interesting items on line anyway.
One that immediately caught the eye was the fact that Bolton’s game was off as the players were on strike. They haven’t received their wages for March nor have the behind the scenes administrative staff and the situation looks absolutely dire. The prospective buyer was on SKY sports news last evening passionately maintaining that he had placed a bond for £1 million to pay players and other staff with his solicitors and was determined to get the game on. It would appear that the stumbling block is the present owner who ain’t budging so heaven only knows the full story. It would be a tragedy in my opinion for a grand, famous old club like that to go to the wall. It’s a question of watch this space.
It was a chilly walk down to Blackwater station and an even chillier wait on platform 8b at Reading for my connection. Nevertheless readers, faint heart never won fair lady and reports like this don’t write themselves so bracing myself against the bitter breeze I concentrated on the start of this piece. The Manchester train duly arrived and was rammed to the gunnels and overcrowded even more than usual. Apparently, this was because of three cruise ships arriving at Southampton and disgorging their human cargo onto the train and a cancelled local train to Oxford. So it was standing room only all the way to Oxford then I was able to get a seat so it wasn’t all bad.
I was glad to alight at Coventry to meet up with Chris and look forward to a pint back at Baginton. Talking of which, Chris had a new guest ale on that he said had been drinking beautifully all week called UBU which comes from a brewery from Stratford. (See picture) He had just changed to a fresh barrel so I was treated to the best of the keg. A medium umber shade with a good tight head, gentle citrus notes which is not overpowering and just the right amount of hops and bitterness in the aftertaste. A lovely smooth pint which went down as sweet as a nut and demanding a second glass which I sank whilst waiting for Chris to finish one or two minor jobs before setting off to St Andrews. The brew was called UBU after the brewery’s dog who is affectionately known as U-Bugger-U!!!!! Recommended if you come across it. 😀
Time waits for no man and it was soon time to go. We picked little Jack up in Kenilworth on the way and arrived at St Andrews close to 2.30. There wasn’t time to go to the George (something which Chris lamented that we wouldn’t win in consequence) so it was straight into the ground for beef ribs in Korean sauce with sweet potato mash at the Cookhouse washed down with another pint. We were just in time for kick off and anyone coming in five minutes late would have missed Blues lively start. Blues had made a number of enforced changes with Marc Roberts coming in for Harlee Dean undergoing keyhole surgery for a sportsman’s hernia, Wes Harding coming in for the injured Michael Morrison and Kerim Mrabti replaced Connor Mahoney who dropped to the bench following a hamstring strain. A speculative pass into the inside right channel by Gary Gardner from out wide towards Lukas Jutkiewicz caused confusion in the Wigan defence. The tracking defender thought his keeper would come for it but the keeper hesitated and Jutkiewicz took advantage of the “after you Claude” dithering to clip the ball between Jamie Jones’ legs from close range for 1-0.
The windy conditions were causing problems for the players on both sides but the advantage was definitely with the visitors in the first half. A goal kick taken by Lee Camp barely made thirty yards and Birmingham were having to work very hard to preserve their lead. There was no doubt that Wigan were making the best of the conditions and as the half wore on were definitely the better side. The effect of the wind was such that Blues were struggling to keep the ball upfield aided and abetted by some poor passing, Wigan spent long spells of possession in the Blues final third. The home side were lucky to escape a quick equaliser when from a cross from Nathan Byrne, Joe Garner’s header cannoned off the inside of the far post and across the goal to safety on 14 minutes. Three minutes later Camp had to make a smart save to keep out Nick Powell’s powerful drive from the edge of the box. As the ball came back in Camp saved again at the expense of a corner. Blues did have their moments and did create chances but they weren’t as clear cut as those of the visitors and despite attempts by Roberts, Jutkiewicz and Jota, Wigan should have equalised on 31 minutes when the home defence was carved open. Joe Garner had a glorious chance from eight yards bang in the centre of goal but his shot was blocked by Wes Harding and the chance was snuffed out.
Just before this, a horrible challenge on Che Adams by Cheyenne Dunkley in midfield resulted in a yellow card when red was probably appropriate. There is no excuse for this type of challenge and Dunkley was very lucky to remain on the field. Blues seemed to regain a semblance of control after his and had half chances to extend the lead. There was a chunk of time added on in view of the injury to Adams and just when I thought Blues would get into half time a goal to the good, they conceded just before the whistle. Antonee Robinson fed in a pass to Nick Powell who made a yard of space before striking a shot from twenty yards. A wicked deflection off a defender’s foot wrong-footed Camp in goal and the ball nestled in the bottom corner. In truth, the goal was deserved and had Blues been 3-1 down they could not have complained; Wigan were the better side in the first period.
The second half started with Wigan on the front foot but after a ten minute flurry and the wind advantage in Birmingham’s favour the home side took control of the game without seriously threatening Jamie Jones in the Wigan goal. Wigan failed to replicate the threat they were in the first half and the game petered out into a draw which over the whole piece was a fair result. The last home game of the season saw Che Adams substituted just before the end to a standing ovation. I think that most believe it will be his final game at St Andrews in a Blues shirt; whatever happens, we all wish him well and thank him for his 22 goals this term.
In view of all the things that have happened to Blues over the last year or two, it’s been a positive season; well done Garry Monk, well done lads, well done fellow fans. See you all in August 🙂
The Good: The pint of UBU at the Baginton, the Korean beef ribs at the Cookhouse.
The Bad: The wind; the blustery, chilly conditions spoilt this game but credit has to go to both sets of players who tried to adapt by making short sharp passes rather than long balls which tended to hold up in the gusts. There were numerous mistakes as a result but it made for a better watch for all that.
The Ugly: Dunkley’s tackle on Che Adams; appalling and worthy of a red rather than a yellow card.
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 6, Maxime Colin 8, Wes Harding 7, Marc Roberts 6, Krystian Pedersen 7, Jota 6, Kerim Mrabti 6, David Davis 7 (Craig Gardner 51, 7) Gary Gardner 7 (Charlie Lakin 75, 6) Lukas Jutkiewicz 8, Che Adams 6 (Isaac Vassell 63, 6)
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Jacques Maghoma, Connor Mahoney, Josh Dacres-Cogley.
Goals: Jutkiewicz 2 min.
Yellow cards: Roberts 71 min.
Wigan Athletic: Jamie Jones 6, Antonee Robinson 7, Nathan Byrne 7, Cedric Kipre 6 (Joe Gelhardt 45, 6) Cheyenne Dunkley 6, Jonas Olsson 7, Lee Evans 6, Nick Powell 6 (Jensen Weir 82, N/A) Josh Windass 6 (Kal Naismith 45, 6) Darron Gibson 6, Joe Garner 6
Subs not used: Gary Roberts, Anthony Pilkington, Christian Walton, Adam Long.
Goals: Powell 45+3 min.
Yellow cards: Dunkley 31 min.
Referee: Stephen Martin 6; The officials had a fairly solid game. There wasn’t much riding on this match and overall the game was played in a decent spirit meaning that the referee didn’t have a lot of contentious decisions to make although I felt he should have dismissed Dunkley in the first half. It was a truly dreadful challenge on Adams.
Attendance: 23,645 (1,381 away)