Friday, 21 October 2016

Burton Albion 2 v Birmingham City 0 - SkyBet EFL Championship

Friday 21st October 2016
SkyBet EFL Championship
at the Pirelli Stadium, Burton upon Trent
Burton Albion (1) 2
Lloyd Dyer 32, Jamie Ward 62
Birmingham City (0) 0
Admission £20. Programme £3
Attendance 5,818 (inc. 1,754 in sold out away fans sections)
Team sheet picture courtesy of Simon Matters.
I didn't take any photos apart from the signs.
The police advice that Blues fans should not travel without tickets was heeded by the majority of away fans who couldn't get hold of a brief for the away end, but it would seem that reserving a standing ticket in the home end and then collecting it from the ticket office on the night of the game wasn't exactly logistically difficult for a good number of Birmingham fans who were dotted around the West Stand.
City manager Gary Rowett, was in charge at Burton for two seasons before taking over the reigns from Lee Clark at St Andrews, having overseen a successful two-year spell at the Pirelli Stadium. Although technically he actually followed on from the caretaker duo of Richard Beale and Malcolm Crosby who held the fort for two games, a 1-0 away defeat at Blackburn Rovers and a 8-0 reversal at home to Bournemouth.
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After two top-six finishes with the Brewers, when Rowett left to take up the City job on 27th October 2014, Albion were sitting proudly at the top of SkyBet League Two and they went on to secure that position and promotion at the end of the season, under the tenure of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
When Hasselbaink was headhunted by QPR in December of last year, Nigel Clough, who had previously managed at Burton between 1998 and 2009, returned to take up his old job at the Pirelli Stadium, following stints in the hot seat at both Derby County and Sheffield United.
Tonight's game marked the first ever competitive fixture between these two sides, although Birmingham provided the opposition for a pre-season game at Burton in 2015.
Blues started with good intentions, pushing forward from the off, particularly down the right flank, while it took twelve minutes before Albion even got the ball into the visitors area, where it was headed away by Jacques Maghoma, the Democratic Republic of Congo international who scored 26 goals in 155 games during his spell at Burton, before he arrived at City, via a stay with Sheffield Wednesday. But the home side did eventually have the first actual shot on goal when Jamie Ward shot just wide of the left hand upright from outside the area after a quality cross from Lloyd Dyer. The same pair combined a few minutes later and Ward scooped the ball over the bar from close range.
Tom Naylor slipped a measured through ball into the path of Ward, but Adam Legzdins was quickly off of his line to smother the lively Brewers strikers shot.
Maghoma ran diagonally across the face of Burton's area, but the referee waved play on when he was surrounded by three players and tripped a fraction after loosing the ball.
On a night when most of the pre-match hype revolved around the homecoming of Gary Rowett, it was a Brummy who had travelled in the opposite direction who opened the score, when Ward held off two challenges, before knocking the ball through into the area, where Dyer took it on and finished with the outside of his left foot. Dyer is a former Aston Villa youth prospect who played fifteen times for Blues, while on loan in 2015
From the Brewers next attack, Chris O'Grady got underneath Ryan Shotton's attempted clearing header and nodded an arcing effort over Legzdins, that fell wide of his left hand post. Legzdins, is of course a former Burton Albion player, in fact it wouldn't have surprised me if a few dozen of the spectators stood around me had played for either Burton, Birmingham or both teams, given the extent of the 'ex' factor on show tonight.
A late Shotton interception, prevented Tom Naylor from getting his shot on target, tat's the same Tom Naylor whose parents used to sit in the row behind me at Field Mill, when he was still on the books of Mansfield Town... and then shortly before the interval, Legzdins pulled of a vital save down to his left to turn Ward's shot around the upright.
Birmingham had started the first half looking like they were building up a head of steam, but having got to grips with their visitors, Burton certainly had the better of the opening forty five minutes and were good value for their interval lead. In fact, they could have gone in at the break three or four goals to the good.
HT: Brewers 1 v Blues 0
Morrison attempted to clear the ball away as Ward battled for possession, but only managed to pass it straight into the path of Lucas Akins who blazed the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
David Cotterill attacked down the right flank but his cross was cut out by John McLaughlin... cue Gary Rowett telling Che Adams and Clayton Donaldson to get stripped for action, while David Davis and Cotterill made way.
Adams, of course, was signed by Nigel Clough from non league Ilkeston FC, when Clough Jr was still managing the Blades,
Lukas Jutkiewicz had been monitored well in spite of Cotterill and Jon Spector trying to provide the service the lone front man required.
Dyer committed a foul twenty five yards from Burton's goal, but with a range of options at his disposal, struck the ball towards the Blues fans at the back of the East Stand. To compound the visitors frustrations, Burton attacked quickly from the goal kick and Ward chased a long header from Jon Brayford forward before firing the ball under Legzdins to double Burton's advantage.
He was offside, but Ward deserved a goal for his efforts thus far and if truth be told, it had been on the cards.
The goal prompted City's manager to make their final substitution, when Greg Stewart replaced Maghona.
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Nigel Clough
Dyer, O'Grady and Ward were still full of running and Nigel Clough's tactic of stringing three extra players across the front of the Brewers back four was paying dividends as Jutkiewicz was crowded out again.
Stewart drove a free kick into Burton's defensive wall, a wasted opportunity from just outside the D on the edge of Burton's area.
Adams shot was deflected over for a corner and when Stewart delivered his kick to Michael Morrison at the back stick, the visitors captain headed wide from a free header.
With the visitors trying to get back into the game they were vulnerable to Burton breaking on the counter and O'Grady wasn't far away from the edge of Legzdins area,
Ward was substituted with ten minutes remaining, as Will Miller was introduced and there was a swap of former Stags players when Lee Williamson came on in place of Tom Naylor to see out the remaining few minutes.
Gary Rowett
Jackson Irvine went close with two half chances, but as Blues struggled to salvage the result, Donaldson took a heavy knock as he collided with McLaughlin as he charged from  his line. After treatment Donaldson was still able to see out the game which had slipped into stoppage time while he was grounded. While Donaldson was receiving attention, Hamza Choudhury came on for the home side with Matty Palmer.
Full time came and one former Burton Albion manager (who came back) had beaten another, to scupper Birmingham's hopes of climbing to up to third place in the Championship table.
FT: Burton Albion 2 v Birmingham City 0
Burton were very impressive tonight, while Birmingham were half decent for the opening ten minutes, before they flopped, in a manner that was akin to a football metaphor for premature ejaculation.
Friday night football doesn't suit Birmingham City.
O'Grady and Ward were fairly awesome tonight and Dyer looked almost unplayable at times.
In conclusion, the best team won. End of!
Blues next two fixtures are: the second city derby v. Aston Villa next Sunday (Noon kick off) at St Andrews, followed by early season pace setters Huddersfield Town away. The Brewers face Yorkshire opposition on the next two weekends, travelling to Elland Road next Saturday to face Leeds United before hosting Barnsley seven days later.