Sunday, 13 March 2016

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 v Birmingham City 0 - SkyBet Championship

Sunday 13th March 2016
SkyBet Championship
at Molineux Stadium
Wolverhampton Wanderers (0) 0
Birmingham City (0) 0
Admission £28. Programme £3. Attendance 21,464
Wolverhampton Wanderers:
Ikeme, Iorfa, Batth, Hause, Doherty; Coady, Price, Saville; Byrne (Zyro, 45), Sigurdarson, Helan (Mason, 85).
Unused subs - Martinez, Deslandes, Rowe, McDonald, Hunte.
Birmingham City:
Kuszczak, Caddis, Spector, Morrison, Grounds; Gleeson, Kiefenbeld (Maghoma, 55), Cotterill, Davis, Toral, Donaldson.
Unused subs - Legzdins, Robinson, Arthur, Shotton, Buckley, Fabbrini.
Carl Ikeme, programme cover star for this afternoon's hotly contested West Midlands derby, pulled off an outstanding save from former Wolves player David Davis, that preserved a point for Kenny Jackett's side as Blues turned up the heat after half time and threatened to over run their hosts.
The first half was an often tense affair, with very little to offer in the way of clear cut chances, with City not actually registering a single goal attempt on target during the opening 45 minutes, while Wolves were restricted to just two efforts from Conor Coady and a deflected George Saville strike, that didn't really trouble Tomasz Kuszczak very much if truth be told.
On arrival at Molineux my 'print at home option' ticket wouldn't scan properly at the turnstile, so I was ushered in to a side entrance to the right of where I was trying to gain entry, by a steward with a swipe card who cheerily informed me "It's a bugger mate, it always plays up like that!"
Yes, I know it does, it happened to me the last time I watched a game here too.
I was sat in the upper tier of the Steve Bull stand, above where the 2,502 away fans, who had sold out their entire ticket allocation, were situated.
There were some empty seats in the upper section towards the North Bank, or Stan Cullis Stand to give it it's more regal title, so I relocated myself there, to afford myself some space and avoid any 'awkward' moments that might arise in view of me not having a Wolverhampton accent.
Another steward approached me who'd spotted me taking a few pre-match pictures on my phone and told me that it was against ground rules to use a camera or mobile phone to record videos or take photographs. Fair enough, he asked politely enough. But from where I was sitting I could see lots of other people doing exactly the same thing going unchallenged.
Jack Price and Clayton Donaldson both got a talking to in the opening moments as they clattered into each other in a manner that typified the way that today's clash was going to pan out at times, amid a cracking and crackling atmosphere that both sets of fans helped to create as they strained their vocal chords to the max.
Of course, if Birmingham do miss out on a play off spot and promotion, they are guaranteed two even more local derby fixture next season, with Remi Garde earning himself the freedom of the city this term, as he builds on the foundations that Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood put in place before him at Villa Park.
For the record, Tottenham's Harry Kane is now joint top scorer in the Premier League, by virtue of knocking in two goals against Villa today, without reply.
The second half was a far more entertaining affair and although the Wolves had shaded the opening forty five minutes, Gary Rowett's side had by far the better of things after the interval, particularly after the introduction of  Jacques Maghoma ten minutes in.
Clayton Donaldson and Jon Toral both had great opportunities to break the deadlock, but narrowly missed the target. Maghoma, the architect behind several Blues attacks, almost bagged a goal for himself and then Ikeme pulled off thwarted Davis, who put in a man of the match performance against his old club, from fifteen yards out.
Evidently he still holds a very special place within the hearts of the Molineux faithful if the noisy reception they gave him every time he touched the ball is anything to go by... though I'm possibly being ironic ;-)
Blues were denied a stonewall penalty when Matt Doherty pulled Donaldson to the floor with a tug of his arm on the referee's blind side as he lined up to shoot in the area, but Wolves got away with that one as the ball bobbled harmlessly past the post, with the visiting supporters behind the linesman yelling a barrage of abuse at him.
I think the only two people in the entire ground who didn't get a clear view of the incident were the ref and his assistant. TV replays later on confirmed that Darren Drysdale had called it wrong, but to be fair, other than that he had handled this often frantic encounter very well, though that decision could prove costly for Blues who really needed a win today rather than a draw, to keep the heat on their play off rivals. They're still not out of it of course, but these are the fine lines that make up the bigger picture and in the final analysis City have a right to feel aggrieved, even though there is no guarantee that an unimpeded Donaldson would have got his shot on target, or any resulting penalty would've definitely equated to a goal.
FT: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v Birmingham City 1
Wolves had slightly the better of the first half, Blues had by far the better of the second.