Sunday, 1 May 2011

Clawing our way to safety

Well we know how to do it the hard way don't we? Before the game, a point would have been a great result for Wolves, but after the game and under the circumstances, it was Alex McLeish who was left smiling after another battling performance by Blues.

In front of a near sell-out crowd the game began at a pace, and it wasn't long until the deadlock was broken under frustrating and at the time controversial circumstances. An awkward ball was played back to Ben Foster whose poor clearance was capitalised on by Stephen Ward, who charged into the box as a determined Foster rushed out of his goal with eyes on the ball. Foster slid in, clawing the ball away from Ward but simultaneously bringing down the player and the referee Kevin Friend – whom certainly didn’t make any friends in Birmingham today – pointed straight to the penalty spot, dishing out a yellow card to the Blues keeper in the process.

As Foster walked back to his goal shaking his head, protests were ignored by the referee from several Blues players, and Steven Fletcher stepped up to the spot as the Blues fans behind the goal sung the name of their goalkeeper in an attempt to put off the Wolves striker. Cameron Jerome pointed to Foster’s left and unfortunately Foster dove that way and Fletcher slotted a soft penalty into the other side of the net to give Wolves a priceless lead in the Midlands Derby after just over five minutes of play.

As the match went on the atmosphere grew incredibly hostile, and you could sense the game would not finish 11 v 11 as players began to get heated and challenges aplenty were flying in, with players squaring up to each other on the pitch, one of which saw Craig Gardner receive a yellow card - Kevin Friend’s inconsistency adding to the frustration of the Blues faithful.

The first big chance for Blues came in the fifteenth minute when they were awarded a free kick in a good position. Larsson stepped up and hit a wonderful shot which he agonizingly saw crash back off the woodwork.

With Larsson sensing a goal he capitalised on the second mistake made by the opposition in two straight home games, when Michael Mancienne was caught in the headlights and Super Seb picked up the ball and fired a brilliantly fierce shot past Hennessey in the Wolves goal to equalise.

The whole ground was now rocking and the already quiet Wolves fans sensed a home victory, and it seemed that way until just two minutes later when Gardner was given a second yellow for an alleged dive. I haven’t seen the replay so I can’t comment but those who have said it was a dive, and if that is the case then it was a stupid thing for him to do, especially being within shooting distance too.

Kevin Phillips was then sacrificed for Jean Beausejour – who had a great game - and Blues reverted to a 4-4-1 formation with Cameron Jerome – who also did a fantastic job and looked completely shattered by the end, like they all did – playing as the lone striker, and Blues faced the next 60 minutes with 10 men, after it looked like they would go on to win it.

The second half was as nerve-wracking as anything, but Wolves didn’t pose any major threat which I’m sure their fans will be annoyed it – I would be. I don’t normally critise players on here (yes, even Villa players) but I will make an exception for Karl Henry, who got nice and dirty and very unsporting. Unfortunately Mr. Friend only saw this once and brandished Henry a yellow card for his troubles. In fact, the man in the middle didn't see much this lunch time, with a blatent a hand in the face of Jean Beausejour being the one that stands out.

Never the less, Wolves really should have taken advantage of the ten man Birmingham, but fortunately for us they were very poor today, and had Craig Gardner not pretended to be playing for Barcelona we would have won that game, as even before the equaliser we seemed to be in the ascendancy.

We now have a four point gap between us and the bottom three, and a seven point gap between bottom of the table West Ham. With the fixtures that the teams below us have to play left, you would think we were safe, but you never know with this league. As long as we battle as we did today – and not make any more silly mistakes – we will once again be dining at the top table with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal for a third consecutive season.

Full Time: Birmingham City 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

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