Sunday, 30 October 2016

Birmingham City 1 v Aston Villa 1 - SkyBet EFL Championship

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Sunday 30th October 2016
SkyBet EFL Championship
at St. Andrew's
Birmingham City (0) 1
David Davis 71
Aston Villa (1) 1
Gary Gardner 29
Admission £25. Programme £3
Attendance 29,656 (1,998 Away)
I didn't actually take any photographs today, it wasn't the sort of occasion where anoraks turn up with their notebooks, spare pens, zoomy lens cameras and sporting hiking apparel.
But The Guardian newspaper have a picture gallery that summed the day up pretty well, both on and off the pitch which can be viewed: HERE  
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Birmingham City:
Kuszczak, Spector, Morrison, Shotton, Wiggins (Robinson 90), Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Davis, Adams (Jutkiewicz 65), Maghoma, Donaldson. Unused subs: Legzdins, Fabbrini, Cotterill, Brown, Stewart. 
Aston Villa
Gollini, Hutton, Baker, Chester (C), Amavi, Jedinak, Gardner, Westwood (Gestede 88), Adomah (McCormack 25), Ayew (Agbonlahor 81), Kodjia. Unused subs: Bunn, Elphick, Cissokho, Tshibola.
Statistics show that Blues had 61% possession as opposed to Villa's 39, while amassing 14 shots on goal as opposed to their visitors 5. 
But there is only one statistic that really matters on any derby day, anywhere in the world and that is the final score. 
To that end a 1-1 draw will satisfy everybody involved, because regardless of what anyone tells you, or how much spin, bravado and outward confidence they display, nobody ever wants to lose against their 'nearest and dearest' fiercest local rivals and we're all scared to death that it could happen and relieved as hell when it doesn't.
Ignore anybody who boasts loudly before these sort of games that their team is going to rack up a big win, because deep down, I suspect that 99.98% of any partisan local derby crowd, would take a 1-1 draw prior to kick off, if only to avoid the potential ignominy of being on the receiving end of what is commonly known as bragging rights in the aftermath of defeat.
Football is only a game, but on a day like today, it grows arms and legs, tentacles and two heads even and comes to represent so much more than twenty two men chasing a bag of wind around.
The 9.07 Birmingham bound train from Chesterfield, where our travelling party had liaised for breakfast this morning, was fashionably and predictably late, but we still arrived in plenty of time to afford ourselves a leisurely stroll through Digbeth and up the Coventry Road, whilst being careful not to make eye contact with any of the staggering amount of police officers deployed along the route. Today West Midlands Police had opted for tactics aimed at intimidating everyone and anyone into being on their best behaviour, while their heavy handed treatment and persecution of all football fans, would have made a Russian pogrom blush at it's half hearted heavy handedness.
Given past events involving a significant number of Blues and Villa fans, it was always unlikely that there would be a softly, softly approach to community policing employed this afternoon.
I suppose that it is only human nature to try and push your luck just that little bit more when given any kind of leeway and leniency and the zero tolerance show of strength established the boundaries for anybody who intended to wander off of the straight and narrow, even slightly. 
The local force in Birmingham have a well earned reputation to maintain and they were certainly putting on a show... bless 'em!
Gary Gardner's first ever goal for the Villains, was all that separated the sides at half time, when he rose above Clayton Donaldson to divert Jonathan Ayew's free kick over Blues defence and beyond the reach of Tomasz Kuszczak's reach after 29 minutes.
Yet the home side had put their rivals under the cosh up until that point and ought really to have been ahead after 10 minutes, when Ryan Shotton picked out the Jamaican international Donaldson at the back stick, but his headed attempt on goal crashed against the underside of the crossbar and bounced up on the line and in spite of the appeals from the City players and premature celebrations of the home crowd, subsequent TV replays showed that the whole of the ball hadn't actually crossed the line and that the referee's assistant Simon Long was right to rule it out.
If the heavy policed streets outside the ground had been a daunting sight for many people, that scene was a picnic compared to what was unfolding out on the pitch itself, with tackles flying in at all sorts of heights from all kinds of angles.
Villa's Jordan Amavi was booked by the match referee, Mike Dean, after just three minutes, for a hefty lunge on Maikel Kieftenbeld, who himself conceded the free kick from which Gardner scored, when he caught an upright opposition player with a rash kick... on his chin!
It was definitely not a contest for the faint hearted out there, but it was massively absorbing and compelling and  supercharged by the fantastic atmosphere inside the ground.

Donaldson kept making all the right runs but squandered two further chances. However it is easy to be critical from up in the stands, without taking into account the amount of effort the City front man was putting in just to get into those sort of positions as he battled gamely in tandem with Che Adams against a uncompromising and at times overly physical visitors defence.
After the interval Blues continued to dominate, but it wasn't until the 71st minute that they finally pulled the goal back that evened things up, when Blues substitute David Cotterill's right wing cross was only half cleared by the Villa keeper Pierluigi Gollini into the path of David Davis who drilled a long range and slightly deflected goal into the back of the net in front of a massive outpouring of joy (and possibly a tinge of relief) in the Tilton End.

The visitors could consider themselves fortunate when Donaldson missed a great opportunity from close range just minutes after Davis' had equalised, but Villa held on to cling onto the draw that Steve Bruce (the former Blues and current Villa manager) said was a fair result. Well he would, eh!?
Sadly Rhoys Wiggins was stretchered off, after the game was held up while he received treatment after a collision with Rudy Gestede. Wiggins had featured in City manager Gary Rowett's long term plans and hopefully his injury won't be as bad as it looked as he left the pitch wearing an oxygen mask and obviously in no small amount of distress.
Gabriel Agbonlahor came on for Villa for a brief appearance late in the game and it was fairly evident that he has a genuine dislike for Birmingham City and their fans, but that is reciprocated back from the St. Andrew's faithful, so hey ho!
It was perhaps fitting in the final analysis that two local lads made good, had scored for the teams they had always supported.
Villa will have been happier with the result, but it was equally as important that Blues didn't lose this one and they can be very proud of the way that they took the game to their expensively assembled neighbours in this Sunday dinner time feast of passionate tribalism, commitment and no holds barred competitiveness.
As a consequence of this result, Birmingham climbed back up to seventh in the table, one place below the play off qualification berths on goal difference, while Steve Bruce's Villains remain unbeaten in four games since he took over the reigns at Villa Park.
FT: Birmingham City 1 v Aston Villa 1