Saturday, 15 December 2018

AFC Dronfield 3 v United Worksop 2 - Sheff County Senior League Div 2

Saturday 15th December 2018
Sheffield County Senior League Division 2
at the Gosforth Fields, Dronfield Woodhouse
AFC Dronfield (2) 3
Jordan Price x 2
George Talbot
United Worksop (1) 2
Patryk Zukowski x 2 inc. 1 pen
In January 2004, three local sports clubs, namely: AFC Dronfield (formed 1985), Dronfield Town FC and Dronfield RUFC, were summoned to a meeting at Dronfield School, which would be relocating in July of that year, with a view to them taking over the upkeep and running of what were still then the educational bodies sports facilities.
Subsequently the three sports clubs accepted the proposals and collectively took over the day to day responsibilities for the site, under the collective group name of the 'Gosforth Fields Sports Association', and between have done a great job of bringing the Fields and 'Clubhouse' up to their current standard, which include an impressive building housing a host of changing rooms,
a lively, warm and welcoming, well patronised upstairs bar and cafe area, with a spectator viewing gallery (and a lift for additional access), along with a full sized and floodlit 3G pitch (which Dronfield Town Reserves were using today), two Rugby pitches (Dronfield RUFC's game was postponed today, though they were still holding a training session), and seven full sized, grass football pitches, of which the nearest one to the entrance hosted this afternoon's AFC Dronfield Reserves v United Worksop, County Senior League Division 2 game. This pitch has banking running around two sides, with a footpath circumnavigating the top, that would have doubled up as a great vantage point on any other day, but were only of interest to anyone who was in training for an Arctic expedition this afternoon, or possibly a masochistic weirdo football blogger, who took leave of the few remaining senses I still had left, several years ago.
Photo credit: www,gosforthfields.org
The official opening of Gosforth Fields, performed by Sir Trevor Brooking CBE and John Owen the RFU President, took place on Thursday 14th 2010; and all told there is scope for upwards of six hundred local people, of all ages, genders and abilities to take part in  sporting activities, possibly even Husky sled racing when the Winter climate on the North East Derbysire/South Yorkshire border arrives with as much spitefulness as it did today.
The last time that I saw United Worksop in action, they won 1-6 at  the 'Thurcroft Hub' the home of Thurcroft Miners Institute, a tidy enclosure that is tucked away in the epicentre of the village, located in the hinterland between the M18 motorway and everyone's favourite NCEL Premier Division club: Maltby Main FC... and just across the road from the local Spar shop.
The first person I saw upon my arrival was Adrian Blachewicz, the United Worksop chairman, who along with Adrian Szewczyk, does a great job of promoting United Worksop on social media and building bridges and friendships with people across the local football community.
For the record, Adrian B probably speaks clearer and more understandable English than I ever will and is a genuine and really friendly guy. He contacted me at 11AM this morning to let me know that following a pitch inspection, this game was going ahead, even though he must've had a whole lot of other stuff to be getting on with. Along with Adrian S who must be even busier, given that he became a father just yesterday afternoon, when the love of his life: Sandra Rydzewska, gave birth to a baby daughter called Natasha... but that didn't stop him turning out in the number 6 shirt for his side today. 
The camaraderie between those connected with United Worksop was clear to see, by the way that they celebrated their opening goal and dedicated it in honour of the new born child. Congratulations to the happy couple :-D and welcome to this crazy world Natasha.
So how did the Worksop side come to be taking a free kick only a matter of feet away from the Dronfield goal? You might be asking.
Well, as I peered through my rain soaked spectacles (which I'm still getting used to, as I've never worn glasses in my life until a few weeks ago), from behind the sparse shelter I'd found in a corner, away from a torrential downpour of icy rain, hailstones and lord knows what else was bucketing down (until the wind changed direction and there was nowhere to hide anymore); it appeared that Jake Woodward, the hosts goalkeeper, got his hand to what was deemed to be a back-pass (even though it would've gone in for an own goal if he hadn't touched it) and and indirect free kick had was awarded as a consequence, which, as you can see from the above video, was nudged sideways by the visitors captain: Grzegorz Koprowski, to Patryk Zukowski, who smashed the ball emphatically through the narrowest of gaps, to put 'United' ahead after just four minutes.
Despite going behind to an early goal, it soon became evident that Dronfield were mastering the conditions better than their visitors, with Matt Sherburn proving to be a constant menace out on the right flank, working in tandem with Danny Glossop-Hamilton on the overlap. Sherburn went close a couple of times, as did Jordan Price, before Woodward did well to gather the ball right under his crossbar from Aleksander Rutkowski's long free kick from out on the right, which almost found its wind assisted way into the roof of his goal. Rutkowski and Zukowsk broke clear, but the pass between them held up in the ever increasing wind, which afforded Woodward the time to intercept the ball.
Price went to ground under the close attention of David Grudowski, in the twenty second minute... and the referee, Stuart Hague, had no hesitation in blowing up and pointing to the spot. 
It was Price himself who got up and took the penalty, to level the score.
George Talbot, Ross Bateman and the live-wire Price, all went close to giving the hosts the lead, before they had a lucky escape, when Jon Gilberthorpe inadvertently headed Grudkowski's dipping free kick into the area, against his own upright, but recovered quickly enough to block Zukowski's effort off the line from the rebound.
Shortly before half time, Dronfield took the lead, when Price got the final touch to a low cross from Sherburn, that Piotr Strycharz had difficulty holding onto, which was understandable given how the paving back towards the changing rooms at half time, now resembled a skating rink... and when I saw my reflection in the clubhouse while I was getting thawed out, I saw that I had a liberal sprinkling of icy sleet on the hood and shoulders of my massive puffer jacket, that was proving to be worth every single penny that I spent on it, just before the winter set in, much to the consternation of my finance manager/spouse.
I dumped my camera that was becoming waterlogged, in my car, along with my notebook which was by now resembling a lump of paper mache... and pondered over whether I should watch the second half from inside the warmth of my car, with the windscreen wipers on, but figured that would be cheating... if the players and referee were going back out into that 'mucky' weather, then so should I, all for one and one for all! 
So I kidded myself that it would be character building and headed back up the slippery bank to carry on watching the game until the bitter end. And stayed there, even when the other four spectators buggered off in doors ten minutes into the second half, because they are infinitely more sensible than me.
Apologies in advance, if any of the names, faces, places, sequence of events and all of that sort of stuff are incorrect today; most of this overview was written from recollection alone, on a day when I suspect that my brain-freeze and rapidly deteriorating memory may prove to have been a lethal combination. 
Dronfield had the better of the second half, by quite some way... and even the United Worksop Twitter feed alluded to the fact that the best team had won the day.
As the weather conditions worsened and darkness descended, the home side missed a rack of chances to put the game out of sight, as the ball moved about haphazardly in the wind. 
Dronfield Town Reserves in action on the adjacent 3G pitch
But eventually, as the visitors failed to clear Lewis Meakin's left wing corner, George Talbot smashed the loose ball into the corner of the visitors net to make it 3-1.
There was almost a prevalent air of 'game-over' inevitably about the outcome of this game by now; but Worksop's half time substitute: Leroy Jay Campion, had other ideas and he made a surging run forward late in the game, before being upended by the hosts keepers outstretched leg, giving Zukowski the chance to reduce the deficit with a penalty kick, which he duly did, albeit via Woodward's right foot, as the Dronfield goalie almost kept the ball out.
Price had three chances to claim his hat-trick, but the left hand post and swirling wind put paid to his ambitions, before the referee blew for full time.
FT: AFC Dronfield 3 v United Worksop 2
I will definitely have got a few things wrong in this résumé of the afternoon's events... but so be it, As a rough appropriation and approximation of what actually happened, at least the gist of the content will be almost accurate.
In a perverse sort of way, it was an enjoyable trip across to Dronfield Woodhouse.. and I'm sure that the colour will return to my bodily extremities, once I've had a long soak in a warm bath for the next hour or so. 
AFC Dronfield Reserves are at home again next Saturday, against Ardsley Athletico; while United Worksop don't play again until they face Dodworth Miners Welfare at their home ground on Retford Road, in Manton, Worksop, on Saturday 12th January 2019.
Happy Xmas one and all, I'll see you again in New Year, or sometime soon.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Sheffield United 1 v West Bromwich Albion 2 - EFL Championship

Friday 14th Deceember 2018
SkyBet EFL Championship
at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United (1) 1
David McGoldrick 12
West Bromwich Albion (1) 2
Gareth Barry 41, Kieran Gibbs 76
Attendance: 23,400
Sheffield United:
Dean Henderson, George Baldock, Enda Stevens (Marvin Johnson 90), John Fleck (Paul Coutts 58), Jack O'Connell,Chris Basham, Billy Sharp, John Egan, Ollie Norwood, David McGoldrick, Mark Duffy (Conor Washington 76).
Unused subs - Richard Stearman, Simon Moore, Tyler Smith, Martin Cranie
West Bromwich Albion:
Sam Johnstone, Kieran Gibbs, Jake Livermore, Matt Phillips, Harvey Barnes (Chris Brunt 90), Dwight Gayle, Gareth Barry, Jay Rodriguez, Tosin Adarabioyo, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi.
Unused subs - Bakary Sako, Tyrone Mears, Boaz Myhill, Conor Townsend, Oliver Burke, Rekeem Harper
I've seen West Bromwich Albion in action twice already this season when they drew 1-1 at both Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City.
While the two previous games that I attended at Bramall Lane, when Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday were the visitors, both finished goalless.
Going by that sort of form, if I was a betting man, then I might have been tempted to go for a low scoring draw tonight.. But thankfully, I'm way too frugal for that kind of caper, or that Mr Ladbrokes bloke would've been 50p better off than he already is, following this closely contested encounter, which ended with Albion
leapfrogging over the Blades, into third place in the table... and although the home side are still in with a shout of a play off place at the very least; the words of their manager: Chris Wilder in his pre-match press statement about this being the sort of game that would indicate if United were 'contenders or pretenders' might have come back to bite him on his backside at full time, as his side have now chalked up just one win in their last five home games, despite the fact that they dominated the ball in the attacking third for the majority of the first half, playing some aesthetically pleasing high tempo football along the way. But time after time, the final ball was lacking.
The game had unfolded at a frantic pace, and though it made for an exciting spectacle, maybe that is what was ultimately the Blades undoing, as West Brom dug in deep, absorbed a lot of pressure and took their time to unpick their hosts at their own pace and in their own good time, slowing things down to a more controlled pace and picking off their opponents in their own good time. Darren Moore's side have been adopting this methodical approach to good effect for most of the season, giving the impression that they have been growing into games as time progresses, when they have actually been applying a disciplined and un-flustered blueprint to proceedings from the very first whistle.
Calming the pace of the game down, waiting for a lull in the other side's tempo and then pouncing to seize the moment, is something that the Baggies have been turning into an art-form this season, as they go about their business in a seemingly un-fussed yet very well drilled manner. You don't see Moore's side panicking and committing too many men forward after they go a goal behind and leaving themselves vulnerable at the back. Maybe that is something that Albion manager became acutely aware of when he played as a centre half back in the day, where he was actually a teammate of his opposite number today: Chris Wilder, when they both turned out in the colours of Bradford City.
Prior to kick off, the visitors were the highest scorers in the Championship this season, but they had also only kept one clean sheet in their previous twenty one league games this term, but apart from the one occasion this afternoon; when Chris Basham took the ball from Harvey Barnes and played it into the path of David McGoldrick, who powered forward into the right hand side of the visitors area, with Craig Dawson breathing down his neck, before shooting across Sam Johnstone and finding the Albion net via the inside of the left hand upright; the visitors had looked solid in  defence, forcing the Blades to retain the ball and try to breach them again on numerous occasions, instead of giving them a direct route to goal.
To this end, West Brom were (and have been all season) playing just as effectively whether they were actually in possession or not. And though there might have been times when such a mentally strong approach might not look very pretty to any 'tippy, tappy football' purists looking on, it is evidently a very effective strategy that is giving Albion a big psychological edge over opposition sides who let their application slip when frustration kicks in from seeing numerous forward moves break down and amount to nothing.
Just before half time, McGoldrick almost doubled the Blades lead, but as Albion defended a corner set piece, they countered quickly, pouncing on a momentary lapse by Ollie Norwood and punished the home side ruthlessly, as United's defence were dragged all over the place, as Barnes saw off Basham before cutting the ball back across the area, where it evaded numerous bodies before sitting up nicely for Gareth Barry whose well struck effort gave Dean Henderson no chance of preventing an equalising goal.
Until that moment, Basham had been a rock for Wilder's team, George Baldock and Jack O'Connell had both broken up several Albion moves before they even got started and Henderson had looked comfortable when coming out to collect the ball and effective with his distribution. However as half time approached, West Brom were getting into their hosts faces in numbers, forcing several errors and almost nicked the lead when Phillips tested Henderson from a tight angle.
HT: Blades 1 v Baggies 1
West Brom were pressing higher up the pitch after the restart and where annoyed when the referee, Jeremy Simpson saw no wrong in a challenge by O'Connell, which allowed the Blades to break forward swiftly, with McGoldrick showing good strikers instincts to get between Dawson  and the visitors goal again, before demonstrating his sides Achilles heel of late, by failing to find the net.
Albion almost took the lead just after the hour when John Egan completely misjudged a bouncing ball inside his area and handled it instead of making a routine clearance; the referee played the advantage and Barnes was thwarted by Henderson.
Barnes was becoming a real thorn in the Blades side and he took a defender with him as he skipped towards United's goal, before laying the ball off to Jay Rodriguez, who should have done better with a great opportunity.
Albion were asserting a tightening grip on the game, at a steady pace, but never overstretching themselves, or giving the Blades much space to manoeuvre, when Matt Phillips delivered the ball into the area, behind Barnes and he back-heeled it towards Kieran Gibbs, who clipped the ball into the bottom left hand corner of Henderson's net, in front of a travelling support of 1,000 plus Baggies
fans, whose presence was now beingheard more and more, as their victory songs echoed around a rapidly emptying Bramall Lane, with around ten minutes left to play. From a position of apparent strength, the Blades were now chasing the game and trying to salvage a draw, but though Billy Sharp went close shooting over the bar from Baldock's delivery, West Brom were't going to let the home side get back into it now and they saw the game out, to claim all three points with what had been a thoroughly professional performance, orchestrated for long spells by the visitors seasoned campaigner Gareth Barry.
Photo 'borrowed' from BBC website
Maybe if Sheffield United had such a steadying influence in the middle of the park, calming some of their impulses down a touch, along with addressing the obvious need for a more prolific and ruthless striker (not that McGoldrick isn't without his plus points) then maybe they too to aspire to be the 'contenders' that Chris Wilder so passionately wants them to be.
United legend Keith Edwards, of all people, said exactly the same thing, on the local BBC radio station after the game too, but alas, goal-poachers (goal-hanger?) like him are few are far between in the ever 'evolving' modern game.
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The Blades, at times, are a real pleasure to watch, when they're moving forward with a high tempo passing game, but there comes a point when finger-blasting your prey just isn't enough any more and you need to give them a full on shafting instead. Without wanting to go completely Freudian on you, they flopped after the break after failing to turn their rampant intentions into more goals before it and were out fought and out fought, by an Albion side who look better endowed to make a real fist of finishing in one of the promotion spots.
FT: Sheffield United 1 v West Bromwich Albion 2
I heard say that the home side deserved to win this game, because of their first half dominance, but, at the risk of upsetting the hordes of Blades fans that I know, I would actually counter that by saying, West Brom actually deserved to win, for applying themselves and remaining focused for the entire game and patiently waiting for a few moments to clinically exploit.
After the game, the Albion manager said he couldn't quite put his finger on the extra ingredient that makes his team tick. He's either being very modest, or that's pure kidology, because Darren Moore knows exactly what he and his team are doing and is proving to be a very astute managerial appointment by the Black Country club.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

THE66POW: FORTHCOMING FIXTURES 2018-19

Forthcoming games:
Changes will inevitably be made to some of the provisional travel plans listed below... and a few more games will definitely be added in due course, to fill up some of the gaps that appear in this (as of yet) incomplete schedule.
Sat 8 Dec - Birmingham City 0 v Bristol City 1 - EFL Championship - 3PM
Wed 12 Dec - Retford 2 v Harworth Colliery 1 - NMU21L LC QF
Fri 14 Dec - Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion - EFL Championship - 7.45PM
Sat 15 Dec - Chesterfield v Mansfield Town - EFL Youth Alliance (North) - (S8 8JR) 11AM
Sat 15 Dec - AFC Dronfield (Res) v United Worksop - Sheff County Senior League Div 2 - 2PM
Sat 22 Dec - Nottingham Forest v Queens Park Rangers - EFL Championship - 3PM
Wed 26 Dec - Stapenhill v Lichfield City - Midland Football League Div 1 - 3PM
Sat 29 Dec  - Birmingham City v Brentford - EFL Championship - 3PM
Tue 1 Jan - Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City - EFL Championship - 3PM
Sat 5 Jan - West Ham United v Birmingham City  FA Cup Third Round - 12.30PM
Sat 5 Jan - Crystal Palace v Grimsby Town - FA Cup Third Round - 5.30PM
Sat 12 Jan - Birmingham City v Middlesbrough - EFL Championship - 3PM 
Tue 15 Jan - Mansfield Town v Crawley Town - EFL League 2 - 7.45PM
Sat 19 Jan - Colchester United v Mansfield Town - EFL League 2- 3PM
Sat 26 Jan - North Gawber Colliery v Frechville - Sheff County Senior League Div 2 - 2PM
Tue 29 Jan - Newark Flowserve v Clipstone FC - EMCL League Cup QF - 7.45PM
Sat 2 Feb - Birmingham City v Nottingham Forest - EFL Championship - 3PM
Fri 22 Mar - England v Czech Republic - Euro 2020 Qualifier - 7.45PM 

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Retford 2 v Harworth Colliery 1 - NMU21L LC QF

Wednesday 12th December 2018
WVH North Midlands U21 League
League Cup Quarter Final
at the Rail Ground
Retford FC (0) 2
Nathan Reah 86
Jack Morrison 87 OG
Harworth Colliery (0) 1
Sol Williams 90+1
Admission £3
Programme 50p
Attendance 63
A lively and competitive encounter, contested in the spirit of goodly sporting ethos, was played out at the Rail Ground tonight, between two teams who are evidently both encouraged to keep the ball on the deck, while providing some eye-catching and entertaining, high tempo football.
Retford had the better of the first half (which, in truth is something of an understatement), but couldn't quite find the final touch to turn a good number of chances into goals, until very late in the game, when a a great long range strike from Nathan Reah put them ahead, as late as the eighty sixth minute, and ironically, it came just after Harworth had been enjoying what had been their best spell of possession of the whole game. 
The Choughs second goal, arrived fifty seconds later, and saw Callum Amendola's delivery from out on the left flank, find the back of Jamie Hooley's net via an unkind deflection, off of Jack Morrison, who was trying to make a last ditch clearance.
Sol Williams halved Colliery's deficit with a headed goal in stoppage time, but it was too late for the visitors to get back on level terms by then... as the hosts secured their place in the semi final.
Neither team are especially big hitters in their division this season, but development is the key... and they both play the right way and obviously have bags of potential to crank things up a gear next season.
Will Lyon seamlessly slotted into the Retford defence, on the occasion of his Under 21 team debut, having stepped up from  the clubs thriving Under 18 set up. Haydn Goddard, showed the sort of assured quality that has seen him experience first team  football... and credit where it's due to Callum Brookes too, who was the visitors engine room to the right of midfield, getting forward and trying to make life as difficult as possible for Goddard, as much as possible. He reminded me of a younger Jonny Bownes, though obviously much fitter and better at playing football than he ever was.
"Pizza delivery for a Mr Williams"
Robbie Collingburn, Nathan Reah, Callum Wilson and Jeanio Joby (the latter of who  was unplayable at times as the first half unfolded) all went close to scoring for the home side, as they put Harworth under the cosh towards half time.
The tactical substitutions made by Harworth during the second half, stemmed the tide of pressure they were under... and the introduction of the giant defender Dale Featherstone in an attacking role, was almost a game changer, and may well have yielded results had it not been for Adam Hicks bravery in goal for the hosts.
"You can't stand with us until you get one of these daft hats"
Being as diplomatic as is humanly possible, given that I have a foot in both camps (as per usual), whenever these two sides get together; I would say that: Retford merited their win and had far more of the play over the entirety of the ninety plus minutes; But the longer things went on and it remained goalless, there was always the chance that the visitors might nick a result, particularly as they grew into the game throughout the second half, but in the end, with all due respect to my many pals at Harworth; Rich Williams side deserved to progress all told.
FT: Retford 2 v Harworth Colliery 1

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Birmingham City 0 v Bristol City 1 - EFL Championship

Saturday 8th December 2018
SkyBet EFLChampionship
at St. Andrew's Stadium
Birmingham City (0) 0
Bristol City (0) 1
Famara Diedhiou 63
Attendance: 20,961 ((inc. 1,298 away fans)
Birmingham City:
Lee Camp, Kristian Pedersen, Maxime Colin, Maikel Kieftenbeld (Wes Harding 79), Connor Mahoney, Che Adams, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Harlee Dean, Jacques Maghoma, Gary Gardner, Michael Morrison (Marc Roberts 67).
Unused subs - Connal Trueman, Craig Gardner, Omar Bogle, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Charlie Lakin.
Bristol City:
Niki Maenpaa, Eros Pisano, Adam Webster, Josh Brownhill, Famara Diedhiou, Andreas Weimann (Marley Watkins, 80), Lloyd Kelly, Niclas Eliasson (Callum O’Dowda 58), Jamie Paterson, Marlon Pack, Tomas Kalas.
Unused subs - Max O’Leary, Nathan Baker, Joe Morrell, Jack Hunt, Mohammed Eisa.
After a recent dip in form saw Garry Monk's side pick up just one point and concede a total of ten goals over a sequence of three consecutive fixtures, against: Derby County away, Hull City at home, and Aston Villa away, they've kept a clean sheet in their two most recent games, where they've picked up six points from games at Millwall ten days ago and against Preston North End at St. Andrew's, last Saturday.
In the meantime, today's visitors arrived in Birmingham off the back of a mixed bag of results, where they ended a run of four straight defeats, with a 3-2 away win at struggling Ipswich Town (on the same night that Blues won at the Den), followed by a 1-1 draw against Millwall at Ashton Gate on Sunday.
The Robins, for their part, were bob, bob, bobbing along in fourteenth, four points adrift of Blues as the teams entered the fray, while Birmingham started the afternoon
in ninth place, among the pack of teams who are just outside of the play off places, and more importantly; given that the EFL might yet clobber them with sanctions and a weighty points deduction, they had twelve points more than Reading, Millwall and Bolton Wanderers who are in a relegation scrap towards the foot of the Championship, and nineteen more than the bottom club: Ipswich Town; who I actually saw in action last Saturday and whose Championship days are beginning to look numbered... not that you can predict anything with any degree of certainty in this free for all of a division.
Due to results elsewhere panning out the way they did, Blues remained in ninth place and the Robins nudged up to thirteenth, by virtue of their single goal win today. It was their first victory at St. Andrew's since 1993.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts and their unusually subdued supporters, but the irony won't have been lost on many of them that Lee Johnson's visitors, won by implementing a game-plan, that was an almost the identical blueprint of several away performances, that Blues have executed to good effect on their own travels this season. Leeds United away in September and possibly even Millwall at the Den more recently, spring to mind.
Containment, closing down space, blocking off supply lines, 'man marking' key players to the point of 'suffocating' out of the game and getting bodies 'in the way'... so to speak, were the tools that Bristol City employed today, to fashion this win, in a game where there was very little to chose between either side... and the Robins squeezed past the finishing line by the narrowest of margins.
Horses for courses rules apply in  the real world of the results based industry that is professional football. And though it often makes for a rather ugly spectacle, it is completely understandable.
It says something for the progress that Birmingham have made since Garry Monk's arrival at the club, that the overwhelming majority of people inside the ground were of the expectant mindset that Blues were favourites to win this game, rather than merely hoping that they wouldn't get beaten.
But, the target for this term, is to improve on the last few miserable campaigns and avoid getting dragged into yet another relegation battle... and it would take a collapse of seismic proportions over the next few months for that scenario to unfold, and so to that end, Blues won't win every week with this 'make do and mend' squad, but how would you realistically measure what constitutes success for Birmingham City this season?
Is a play off berth, or even promotion a requisite? Or should people be satisfied with the fact that massive strides are being taken in the right direction... and that the underpinning foundations for future seasons are clearly being put in place. That said, if recent results have raised the bar along with optimism levels, then you can't blame anybody for getting carried away and wanting more of the same.
On the subject of blame... John Brooks, the match referee, copped for a whole lot of it this afternoon and not without good cause on a number of occasions. I now it's pantomime season and all that, but it should be against the laws of the game for match officials to smoke crack rocks and inhale laughing gas before taking charge of a game of Association Football.
No doubt enthused by his fellow whistle-blower Darren England's laughable performance in the West Midlands last night, when he allowed Jay Rodriguez's stoppage time handball goal (and equaliser) to stand, in West Bromwich Albion's 2-2 home draw against Aston Villa, Mr Brooks did his level best to upstage his fellow 'highly trained and well paid professional'... and in the eyes of most Blues fans, he probably succeeded.
Moments after Tomas Kalas had fired narrowly wide for the visitors, Jacques Maghoma broke forward and ran all of forty yards deep into the Robins area, but as he shot he was pushed in the back by one Bristol defender and kneed in the thigh by another who was getting across his run, but as he was toppled over, the referee waved play on. 
Play switched to the other end and as Maxime Colin chased the ball down alongside Lloyd Kelly, who shoved him crashing into the advertising boards at the Tilton End causing the Blues defender to require treatment off of the pitch. Kelly was lectured by the referee but only received a booking for his transgression.
For his encore, late in the second half, Brooks booked Che Adams for taking a tumble in the area as he was tripped en route to goal and had a clear shooting opportunity, from a position that would've been far more advantageous than any resultant penalty kick.
Now, I'm  not saying that if any of the above had gone Birmingham's way, that the outcome of the match would've been any different, but none of it did them any favours either. 
Some days you get the rub of the green with decisions... and others, you need broad shoulders and a strong chin.
Clear cut chances were few and far between throughout this virtual stalemate; during the first half Adams had picked out Lukas Jutkiewicz, whose full blooded strike was turned away for a corner by Niki Mäenpää, who also tipped Harlee Dean's header over the bar from Conor Mahoney's flag kick.
Famara Diedhiou, shot high and wide as the visitors almost forced the issue on half time.
Diédhiou had been singled out as 'ONE2WATCH' in today's matchday programme... if only the home defence had read it beforehand, eh!? In the sixty third minute he scored the only goal of the game, forcing a close range header into Blues net from Callum O’Dowda's right wing corner. As impact substitutions go, O'Dowda set up Diédhiou strike less than five minutes after coming on from the bench.
Blues went agonisingly close to snatching a point late in the day, when Mahoney picked out Jutkiewicz with a free kick from out on the left, but his powerful glancing header across the goal, bounced back into play off of the inside of the upright.
If only they still used square goalposts!
As stoppage time passed by with indecent haste, Blues had one last chance inside the final added minute, as a the ball found it's way into the path of Kristian Pederson, who crashed it fiercely past the Robins defensive wall, keeping his effort low and on target, but Mäenpää got down well and held onto the goal bound and the three points, that would now definitely be heading to Bristol.
FT: Birmingham City 0 v Bristol City 1
Neither side looked anything special this afternoon, as they effectively cancelled each other out for the majority of the game, or passed the ball around in areas of the pitch that were never going to lead to anything too  cavalier. But Lee Johnson's side took the spoils, with a victory built more on graft than guile... that brought Blues unbeaten run of fifteen Championship games unbeaten on home turf, an impressive run that began back in March.
Blues have Jota coming back from injury as they go into the hectic rota of Festive fixtures, he was certainly missed today and might even have made a difference if had've been available. 
But ifs, buts and maybes don't win games of the football, and the fact of the matter is, that by matching Blues tenacity, graft and work rate, Bristol City did.
Was that Paul Mayfield I saw in the
Blues club shop earlier today?
Garry Monk's side head to Blackburn Rovers next Saturday, while the Robin's entertain league leaders Norwich City at Ashton Gate, later the same afternoon.