Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Festive Fixtures

The three tough festive fixtures in the past week heralded a great task for Birmingham City, but one which they ultimately prevailed in; unbeaten in all three games picking up five points out of a possible nine and keeping their unbeaten home record intact – the only club still able to hold claim to that in the Championship.

It all started against West Ham in front of a crowd of over 20,000 plus more watching at home on Sky Sports. But it looked to be a Boxing Day to forget as the visitors took the lead in under four minutes due to some uncertain defending by Pablo Ibanez leading to Carlton Cole capitalising on the mistake and slotting the ball past Boaz Myhill. Down but not out, Blues were roared on by their passionate home supporters and after 90 minutes of standing toe to toe with the league favourites, they were rewarded when David Murphy scored a late equaliser to pick up a point.

That late Christmas present was then topped off by a superb 3-0 win against Blackpool on New Year’s Eve. Curtis Davies began the rout, heading home just before half time when Blues should and could have already been at least two or three nil to the good. The second half saw yet more terrific attacking football, and Marlon King put the game seemingly beyond the reach of Blackpool when he scored Blues’ second goal of the game. Shortly after it was really all over, as ex-Blue Barry Ferguson was dismissed after a bad challenge on Guirane N’Daw, much to the delight of the already jubilant supporters in the stands who applauded Ferguson off singing his name. Ian Holloway was also sent to the stands after become so irate with the decision he had to be escorted away by a handful of stewards. Youngster Nathan Redmond then topped off the day by scoring a third late on to top off what was a turbulent but, none the less, brilliant year for Blues; which saw an emphatic 4-3 win over West Ham in the Carling Cup lead to their first real piece of silver wear after a 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Wembley in unbelievable circumstances. Relegation, money laundering charges and a departing manager followed; but new faces and a new style of football has installed hope, belief and excitement back into the Birmingham City faithful, and reaching the group stages of the Europa League in what is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity made sure that the low points of the year have well and truly been put behind us, for the time being anyway.

A new year awaited Blues but the hope of continuing the push for unlikely promotion remained a constant when the team visited Peterborough yesterday afternoon in their first game of 2012. The day began with the arrival of some sad news, as the information reached the footballing world of the death of former Blues, Everton and Liverpool defender Gary Ablett. The thousands Birmingham fans in attendance at London Road, as well as the home fans, players and staff held a minute’s silence-turn-applause prior to the game to celebrate the life of a great footballer, and a great man, who died at the young age of just forty-six.

Sadly for Blues the day didn’t get much better, as Peterborough took the lead within thirty seconds, as Emile Sinclair beat the offside trap to put the Posh in front. After a sloppy start Blues picked up the pace and as such managed to control the game; having the majority of possession and peppering Joe Lewis’ goal with distance shots from the likes of Keith Fahey as well as close range efforts from Nikola Zigic, one of which was saved magnificently by Lewis. It looked to be all over for Blues but deep into injury time a Peterborough hand touched the ball in the penalty area and Marlon king stepped up to take the resulting penalty kick; placing the ball into the far right hand corner and running away in celebration, hand cupped to his ear as he raced past the Peterborough fans.

It was a deserved point and capped off a fruitful festive period for Birmingham City and a good start to 2012. If this year is even half as eventful as the one it succeeded then we’ll be lucky, but if I know Blues at least something unbelievably remarkable will happen this year. After all, it’s never dull is it?

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