Friday, 14 April 2017

Rotherham United 1 v Birmingham City 1 - EFL Championship

Friday 14th April 2017
SkyBet EFL Championsip
at the New York Stadium, Rotherham
Rotherham United (0) 1
Danny Ward 85
Birmingham City (0) 1
Kerim Frei 73
Admission £20. Programme £3
Attendance 10,160 (inc. 2,576 away fans)
Rotherham United:
Richard O'Donnell, Darnell Fisher (Jerry Yates 61), Semi Ajayi, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock, Jon Taylor, Will Vaulks, Richie Smallwood, Joe Newell (Tom Adeyemi 46), Carlton Morris (Jonson Clarke-Harris 77), Danny Ward
Unused subs - Aimen Belaid, Alex Bray, Ben Purrington, Laurence Bilboe
Birmingham City: 
Tomasz  Kuszczak, Krystian Bielik, Ryan Shotton, Paul Robinson (Kerim Frei 55), Emilio Nsue, David Davis, Robert Tesche (Jacques Maghoma 90), Craig Gardner (Maikel Kieftenbeld 80), Jonathon Grounds, Charlee Adams, Lucas Jutkiewicz
Unused subs - Adam Legzdins, Stephen Gleeson, Cheick Keita, Jerome Sinclair
The last time that these two sides met, back in October at St. Andrew's, the game finished 4-2 in favour of Birmingham City.
Of course. both teams had completely different managers back then, but I'm sure that you're all fed up of reading about the pair of them elsewhere, so... moving swiftly on.
Prior to today the Millers have been victorious just twice in their previous twenty two outings.
By comparison, Blues have been on fire and it has only taken them twenty games to amass the same amount of wins.
This most definitely wasn't a head to head between two form teams, quiye the opposite!
Birmingham City, the team previously called: Small Heath Alliance, and more recently: play off contenders, have accumulated just twelve Championship points in the whole of 2017, the only team in the same division to have picked up even less are Rotherham United with a paltry five... and those totals include the one apiece from this afternoon's draw.
With a build up like that, it's got to be fairly obvious to understand why I purchased a ticket for this must see clash, the very moment that they went on sale... hasn't it!?
It was a rhetorical question.
And everybody already knows the answer.
According to a statement issued by the club hierarchy earlier in the week, another sold out visiting support of 2,600 at the New York Stadium and the regular turnout of Blues fans at away games, is a vindication of their strategic planning and the claims of the manager that the team is improving on the pitch, regardless of how much that is contradicted by the hard facts of the matter, i.e. a run of piss poor results, some shocking performances at both rnds of the pitch (which some geometric aesthetically nice stuff in the middle third of the pitch, sans any penetration in areas that actually hurt other teams) and a league table that doesn't lie.
Seriously, all that money and he still buys £20
 trainers in the Sports Direct clearance sale.
But more than anything, their assumption actually illustrates just how out of touch the club owners are with their fan base, who are demonstrating a quite remarkable level of loyalty, camaraderie, togetherness, defiance and stubbornness, in the face of Trillion Trophy Asia and Gianfranco Zola effectively using their club as an experimental plaything.
The supporters of any football club who have stood their ground during a downturn in fortunes, will be able to relate to why Blues fans keep right on travelling in such large numbers, but by the same token, they would also struggle to comprehend why on earth an overseas business conglomerate and a multi millionaire manager (with a personal net worth of £32 million, if you can believe anything you read on the internet), would suddenly rack up at West Midlands football club, that they have no previous connections with whatsoever.
Whereas the supporters, who were already a massive part of what Birmingham City FC is really all about, have been there all along and they'll still all be around, dutifully manning their posts, long after any manager or overseas backers have moved on and/or been superseded.
TTI's takeover was long and protracted and tobe honest, it came at a time when financially, Blues were drinking after hours and stretching out time to the nth degree in the last chance saloon, so to that end they've effectively kept the club alive... but though change was inevitable, there is a marked difference between change for changes sake and progressive change.
To their immense credit, at least Birmingham stopped their hosts from creating a new record this afternoon. Because if Blues had won... I know 'if' is only a two letter word, but it has a mountain of connotations; it would've meant that the Millers had been involved in the longest ever unbroken sequence of back to back defeats, experienced by any club in Championship history.
So that's something nice that they can proudly tell their grandchildren about in years to come.
Yes, you're right of course: sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but you keep coming back to read all of this crap, so you only have yourself to blame.
Hmm... is this kind of goalkeeper and referee colour clash apparel allowed?
On the way out of Rotherham after the game, I happened upon a local radio phone in on the car stereo, where a sage and evidently very wise old Millers fan was talking a hell of a lot of sense about the plight of the South Yorkshire club he'd supported all of his life.
His closing gambit was reserved for Birmingham City however; and I quote "That lot today, were the worst team we've had down here at the New York Stadium... and in saying that I don't just mean this season in the Championship, I'm talking about all of the time we've been playing there. They were awful... and if we aren't good enough to beat rubbish like that, it clearly demonstrates how far our standards have slipped"
Blimey! Don't mince your bleedin' words Granddad.
I can't imagine that the Millers themselves have entirely been up to much themselves, but his post match analysis somewhat buries the claims of the current Blues manager that performances are improving.
And, to be frank, any Blues fan who believes such a fallacy is being sold a bargain rail version of the kings new clothes.
There have been traces and the odd hint here ans there, the the Birmingham players are absorbing a new culture and more scientific way of playing football, but it's a very simple game that can be made far too complicated at times. In a nutshell, you win games by scoring at one end and lose them by conceding at the other and though attractive tippy tappy football is pleasing on the eye, you shouldn't entertain such flights of fancy until you've got the basics right first.
Rotherham fans... it takes all sorts Darrell! ;-)
Anyway, I suppose I had better say a few words about today's game:
Rotherham were very average, but the Blues were so poor, they made the Millers look good (well, almost) in spells.
Though I must stress that I am not singling anybody out, Craig Gardner was wasteful with a string of free kicks around the Millers goal area.
In fact he was so ineffective that it seemed as though the home side were happy to commit fouls whenever Blues pushed forward, secure in the knowledge that the resulting free kicks would come to absolutely nothing, time and time again.
It's a goal!!!
But the law of averages, if nothing else, suggested that one must go in eventually and sure enough...
Kerim Frei took responsibility for a kick in the seventy third minute and there were wild scenes in the away end as a mass outpouring of relief erupted as he curled the ball over the Rotherham wall and into the top corner of the net beyond the reach or Richard O'Donnell.
The performance didn't matter today all that much today as far as those travelling fans were concerned, but with the trapdoor end of the table looming ominously close, the result did!
However with five minutes remaining that elation turned to despair, as Danny Ward crashed a low shot past Tomasz Kuszczak into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area to make it one apiece.
It was a well taken goal, which the home supporters thoroughly enjoyed as they finally found their voices and turned towards the massed ranks in blue and white, to taunt them with a few verses of: "You're going down with the Millers!"
I think it would be fair to say that Blues season had just reached it's lowest point. Their game against fellow strugglers Burton Albion on Monday, had just grown arms and legs... and possibly horns and a capacity to breathe fire.
Anything other than a win over the Brewers will mean that a defeat in next week's Second City derby at Villa Park, could see Birmingham  slide into a relegation spot, with just two games to go, namely: one against Huddersfield Town who are pushing for promotion and a trip to Bristol City on the last day of the season, who themselves might need a result to preserve their own Championship status.
In an instant, the dynamic in the South Stand changed, as the reality of the situation unfolding out on the field of play and the very real possibility that things could get worse, categorically worse, any time soon, acted as a trigger for a volatile mixture of frustration, hurt and disbelief began to spill over and create a very unpleasant atmosphere.
Angry voices were raised, some towards Gianfranco Zola others towards fellow supporters, as arguments broke out, fingers were pointed, threats were made and people even squared up to each other... (even two Blues players had to be restrained after the game as they flared up at each other).
Things nearly got much worse for the visitors, as Rotherham almost snatched the points right at the end, when Jerry Yates smashed the ball over the bar, but the ref blew for time and it finished all square, with a point apiece.
FT: Rotherham United 1 v Birmingham City 1
As results began to come through from elsewhere, it was announced that Blackburn Rovers had beaten Nottingham Forest, in a relegation six pointer at the City Ground. 
They are both below Birmingham in the table, but today got just that little bit worse for those Blues fan boarding the convoy of coaches to take them home, because that means their team are now just four points above the drop zone with four games left to go, whilst there opponents on Monday are two points below them and will really have to give it a go if they are to escape relegation.
How we used to live. Millmoor. The Millers old ground still
standing just across the A630 from their current home.
Incredibly, I read somewhere that the Birmingham manager will be steeped in praise for his astute handling and masterminding of beating the drop, if  they stay up.
Woo hoo! All hail King Zola!
All I can do in response to that, is to draw upon the plot from a children's story written by Hans Christian Andersen and say this: "The King is in the all together. But all together the all together, He's all together, as naked as the day that he was born". 
Rotherham are already relegated. Is there still scope/hope for a fairy tale ending for Blues?
We won't have to wait too long to find out.