Monday, 19 March 2012

Mixed Emotions

After a midweek stumble going down 3-1 at the hands of Leicester, Birmingham got their promotion push back on track with a comfortable and deserved 3-0 home victory against fellow play-off contenders Middlesbrough, who they then leapfrogged into fourth place.

Taking the lead against Leicester midweek through a Wade Elliott penalty, Blues seemed to be along the right lines to gain at least a point from their Midlands rivals. But after having Nikola Zigic’s header hit the bar then Steven Caldwell’s follow-up header being cleared off the line, it seemed to fuel the Leicester side who scored just moments later, with Jermaine Beckford capitalizing on some questionable defending from Blues. Two goals in the second half from Beckford again and then sbustitute Jeffrey Schlupp after more defensive mistakes made sure Blues left the King Power Stadium well and truly dejected, although you’d do well to believe that if you heard the travelling support, who gave their team and manager a tremendous backing throughout.

The midweek loss was just another dampener on Blues’ push for promotion, with their last win coming in February, a response was needed in the home game against Boro, who lost their last game at home to Leeds who played them almost off the park and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.

And a response was what the fans got. In a professional performance by all involved, it was Nikola Zigic who got his name on the score sheet early on after connecting with Chris Burke’s cross to send a low header past Jason Steele and into the back of the net.

The away side threatened, but their long-range shots were easily coped with by Boaz Myhill and by the back line; with David Murphy back in the defence in place of the injured Jonathan Spector, a welcome return for the ex-Boro boy who helped his side to a clean sheet.

On top throughout, Blues were almost punished for defensive mistakes again but luckily Joe Bennett’s goal was disallowed for offside. Marlon King punished Boro further; the only man wearing a Blue shirt in the box connected with Chris Burke’s cross to finish from close range, beating several Boro players to the ball.

As the last home game proved – two goals just aren’t enough, and Blues were hungry for more to boost their goal difference up after it took a hit during the week. Keith Fahey, man of the match after a superb attacking and defensive display, put the game to bed on the 60th minute, picking up the ball inside his own half and going on a determined run which culminated in a fantastic goal after a superb solo effort by the Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day.

The result pushed Blues back into the play-off places and in great contention of staying there, with a game in hand on many of those around them.

But the results of the weekend all over the country mattered not, as on Saturday evening an event at White Hart Lane overshadowed football, and united the community of the sport in prayer for Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed on the pitch and is currently in a serious condition in hospital. A great servant to Blues, Muamba came to England at a young age as a refugee, not knowing how the speak the language, and came through the ranks at Arsenal before going on loan and then signing for Birmingham. His commitment, lovable personality and his battling nature meant he soon became a crowd favourite at Blues, helping them to promotion in 2007 before making his Premier League debut the follow season. His final performance for Blues saw him score a long-awaited first goal at St. Andrew's - much to the delight of the player himself and the fans in the stands.

But then he's not known for goalscoring. His style of play is to win the ball and to move play along; a real battling midfielder who loves to get stuck in.

Muamba then then moved to Bolton, where he has been since 2008, and cemented a regular place in the team and continued his strong midfield performances.

It’s always the way that the worst things always happen to the great people, and I speak for everyone when I wish Muamba a speedy recovery. It has taken an event as tragic as this to unite football fans; but let’s all pray for Muamba.

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