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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Birmingham City v Leeds United 26th Oct 2011

Driving from Manchester to Birmingham along the M6 is a challenge at the best of times but when the mighty whites are playing a midweek match in England's second city and the motorway is blocked at Holmes Chapel things tend to get a bit tense.  Having used the Sat Nav to circumnavigate the motorway gridlock via the delights of the back roads of Cheshire I eventually arrived at the Ibis Hotel in good time for a pint and a sandwich.  Birmingham City are in a rich vein of form and there weren't many Leeds fans who were predicting anything more adventurous than a draw but as the beer & conversation flowed I began to think we could sneak it with a last minute goal.  Well what else do you expect?

St Andrews is not situated in the most picturesque bit of Brum so quite rightly the Happy Chocker was a tad concerned that his car might not be in one piece or even there at all when he returned after the match on the street he boldly left it in.  But once inside the ground and refreshed by another pint the usual pre match optimism kicked in and the potential car thieves of Birmingham were put to the back of our minds.  Snoddy had recovered from his injury to take his place on the right flank in the only change from Saturday.  A healthy 3,000 fans had made the trek to follow the mighty whites and were soon in good voice reminding the alleged rapist, Marlon King, exactly what they think of his off the field antics.

Leeds started brightly knocking the ball about crisply and testing a strong home side.  It soon became apparent why they concede very few goals though as their robust defenders and well drilled system attempted to stifle Leeds' natural urge to attack.  With the 10ft tall Zigic leading the line Lees and O'Dea were always going to struggle to deal with his extra height as Brum tried to play the ball down the flanks to create crosses into the Leeds danger area.  But after a couple of minor scares in the Leeds box it was Leeds who created the first class opening of the night as Keogh, Ross Mac, Clayton combined sweetly to set up Snoddy who's pass cum shot whizzed inches past the post.  Rachubka saved well from Beausejour at the other end after the Brum player found space behind Connolly and fired a dangerous shot across the Leeds bows but as the clocked passed the 30 minute mark it was Clayton who so nearly broke the deadlock with a screaming volley that Myhill only just fingertipped over the bar.  Leeds were looking good as the home fans began to shuffle uncomfortably in their quiet seats.  So just when Leeds looked like they beginning to edge the game the giant Brummie beanpole, Zidic, scored the opener.  Leeds lost the ball up field and Brum broke clinically and were soon attacking our left flank..............the ball came into the box on the floor..............offside everybody round me shouted as the Brum player laid it back out to the wing from where the ball was swung across to the back post for Mr Beanpole to knock in.  Bollox! We didn't deserve that.

Once they got their noses in front Birmingham played with a well planned and drilled system that gradually began to squeeze the life out of Leeds like a giant boa constrictor.  Clearly Chris Hughton has built on Alex McLeish's no nonsense style of football.  The game remained 1.0 until half time.  The draw that everyone craved for before the match was still within Leeds' grasp.  We just needed to find the key to unlock the miserly home defence. The key that definitely didn't fit was the long ball down the throats of the resolute home centre halves but it didn't stop Leeds trying it time and again.  When we did play with the ball on the floor we looked more of a threat but the more we tried the harder the home snake squeezed and we struggled to create any meaningful chances.  At the other end when the Blues broke Zigic remained a threat and nearly clinched the victory with 20 minutes left when he brought out another good save from Rachubka. Becchio, Sam and Vayrenen came on for Keogh, Pugh and Clayton.  The latter change raising numerous eyebrows amongst the travelling army of fans.  He must be injured because he was the only one looking capable of breaking the deadlock.  All of sudden Jonny Howson came alive though.  He hadn't had the best of matches up to then but suddenly he was winning tackles and running at the home defence with menace.  Sam also injected some fear into the Blues back line and with Aidey White again looking dangerous going forward I began to think we could snatch a point.  Becchio won his fair share of balls as Leeds tried one final push.  Snoddy went down in the box but the ref waved appeals for a penalty away and then Ross Mac hit the shot of the game that produced the save of the game by Myhill.  In between Rachubka kept us in it with another excellent save.  Despite the final hurrah Leeds couldn't find a way through and their 7 match unbeaten run came to an end as the ref blew his whistle for the last time.

Leeds were not disgraced by this performance and certainly showed lots of good qualities against a very good, strong and effective side.  I don't think Birmingham will give their fans many heart stopping moments but on this evidence they will be pushing for an automatic spot this season.  Leeds just lacked the guile to break Brum down but even though we lost I didn't think we had played that badly.

The Leeds fans were held back after the game to ensure the large Police presence was justified after which I ended the evening reviewing the game with Sazzy and "We Beat the Scum 1_0" in the Ibis bar.  A Brummie fan offered the consolation that he thought we played the better football.  Mmmm maybe he's right but at this level chances win matches and Brum took their's and we didn't.  Still we remain in 5th position with Cardiff the visitors to the Theatre of Hope on Sunday lunchtime......................anyone for Roast Lamb?
Can't wait!

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