Saturday, 25 November 2017

Sheffield United 1 v Birmingham City 1 - EFL Championship

Saturday 25th November 2017
SkyBet EFL Championship - 5.30pm Kick off
at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United (0) 1
Leon Clarke 71
Birmingham City (1) 1
Jeremie Boga 38
Admission £24. Programme £3.
Attendance 27,427 inc 2,239 away
As polar opposites go, the stark contrast between the respective seasons that these two clubs are currently experiencing, pushes the perimeter edges back, just about as far as they'll go.
The Blades fans are turning out in large numbers, by way of honouring the manner in which Chris Wilder has taken United on a roller coaster ride to the top of Championship, since his side won promotion from League 1 last season.
Whereas Birmingham City's ever impressively sized army of away fans, have been turning up out of stubborn defiance, to a point that is stretching the credibility of the words 'staunchly loyal' almost to breaking point.
Putting things politely, they deserve much better than they've been getting this season, which is at risk of even giving last term's disastrous campaign a run for it's money, in the misery stakes.
The last time I went to St. Andrew's, there was a Joiners van parked in my usual spot, but the chippy's mate said not to worry because his boss would be back soon to move his vehicle, once he'd measured up the manager's office to fit it with a revolving door. Steve Cotterill is the current occupant of that office, whose job it is to turn the fortunes of Birmingham City round... at least he was when I last checked yesterday morning. Joking aside, since the takeover at Blues, which was heralded as the start of something akin to a brave new world, with wealth and riches available to take the club forward beyond the Bluenose faithfuls wildest dreams. The reality of the situation is, that they have seemingly jumped out of the frying pan... and into an even bigger frying pan. But I won't pontificate further, because I'm quite sure that the Samaritans are busy enough already on weekend nights, without me being responsible for pushing anyone else past their tipping point.
Blues employed three central defenders absorbed a lot of pressure from the high flying Blades, as they toughed out an 'away performance' to take a point from their promotion contending opponents.
John Lundstram tested the visitors keeper David Stockdale and Leon Clarke miscued a shot wide of the post, but it was Cotterill's side who took the lead, with a sublime strike from twenty five yard strike by Jeremie Boga on thirty eight minutes, after United had only half cleared a corner kick from José Ignacio Peleteiro Ramallo, or Jota as he is more commonly known.
Just before the interval Birmingham had a great opportunity to grab a second, when Boga played a measured pass down the right to Lukas Jutkiewicz, who took too long on the ball and lost it with Cheikh N'Doye well placed to receive a pass right in front of the Blades goal.
Confusion amongst the United defence and the ensuing mix up almost gifted Boga with a chance to score, but the ball was fielded away to Jutkiewicz, whose first time effort was cleared from in front of the goal line.
The usually free scoring home side, were being restricted by Blues defensive approach, despite their best efforts to break their hard working and well organised visitors down, but in the seventy first minute Clarke made himself a yard of space inside the Birmingham area and drilled his shot past Stockdale from twelve yards.
Once more, as stark contrasts go, Clarke's strike was his ninth goal in four games for the Blades, whereas Jota's long range strike was only the tenth goal that Birmingham  have scored in nineteen league games this season.
The draw means that Sheffield United are now level on points (but third on goal difference) with second placed Cardiff City, who visit Nottingham Forest tomorrow for a 1pm kick off, while Blues edged two points away from the relegation zone, where Sunderland who are snapping at their heels won 2-0 at Burton Albion (who are one pace below the Mackems) earlier today.
Bolton Wanderers remain bottom, three points below Birmingham, after being thrashed 5-1 by league leaders Wolves this afternoon. Wolves are City's next opponents when they visit St. Andrew's a week on Monday, while Sheffield United travel to the new Den to take on Millwall nest weekend.
It's all go in the Championship, innit!?
FT: Sheffield United 1 v Birmingham City 1