On a day where the headlines will go to Bradford and Middlesbrough, there was a big game in Birmingham between ourselves and the Blues.
After helping out my Non League side with some pre-match prep (They won 4-2!!) I was off to Birmingham to see Albion hopefully continue a cup run, although I fully predicted a replay pre match against a side that have been on the up under the stewardship of Gary Rowett.
Blues didn’t go full strength, but they had some strength in their side. Prospect Damari Gray and key man Clayton Donaldson were content on the bench. It’s obvious they’re looking at a possible promotion.
Pulis went a little maverick. Lescott started left back ahead of Poco, oddly. Gardner played in a wide right position with Chris Brunt in a more central role. Berahino and Anichebe were handed the striking roles so a strong side was picked but positional wise it was a little different.
Albion started well, attacked the game and tried to create. Blues clearly working wings well with debutant Lloyd Dyer and David Cotterill running at Andre Wisdom and Joleon Lescott but they lacked, like WBA, significant quality.
Couple of early shots from Albion came in from Berahino but one wide and one comfortably saved. Blues didn’t overly trouble Myhill in the Albion goal.
Having not watched highlights, I’m actually struggling to remember opportunities for either side that excited fans.
It was dull livened by sheer hope and ambition, Albion had plenty of possession but lacked any invention, many balls were played from Dawson and McAuley to Anichebe who was tasked to bring it down and gain yards. A job he was mixed at, did it well at times, lost it completely others. That’s why he’s a baggie.
Vic then got himself on the scoresheet. Saido Berahino ran at the defence and slid in his strike partner and from what looked a difficult angle I don’t know how it went in. There was a very delayed reaction from away fans in our vantage point simply because it didn’t look like an overly impressive shot.
2-0 came not too long after with Anichebe and Berahino again linking well, as they did against Gateshead and Anichebe turned his man and again struck at goal and past Darren Randolph. Anichebe is on for scoring in every round of the cup, that’d be superb given the support shown for Justice for Jeff this season.
From then we seemed to drop deeper, encouraging Birmingham onto us and they were certainly trying to get crosses in.
One came off just on half time when Wisdom couldn’t stop the low cross and Jonathan Grounds found himself in 5 yards of space on the penalty spot. He sidefooted a low shot home in off the post.
Not sure what the team talk was, not sure what the game plan was but it wasn’t what anyone expected.
Albion seemed to simply defend what they had, there was a moment, in front of me when Gardner had the ball and tried to play to the overlapping Wisdom who didn’t realise and Blues went straight up the other end and tested Myhill, he made a good low down save to keep the scores level.
A poor kick from Darren Randolph presented Chris Brunt with an opportunity, he managed to block the ball but lost footing allowing Randolph to get back and stop the captains attempted chip back over him.
An injury to Sess (who hadn’t aided Lescott on the left side) saw his day brought to an end and with Morrison and Dorrans available on the bench Chris Baird came into the midfield next to the superb Claudio Yacob.
The one chance to seal the game did come for Albion, it was a corner and swung in Lescott rose well and his powerful attempt was denied by a reaction save.
Blues had possession and Albion were dropping deeper as the game went on, however they couldn’t create anything clear cut. In honesty, they looked like a mid-table Championship club trying to break down a solid, organised defence.
Myhill went off with a knock after committing himself and winning the ball before the striker. Ben Foster took his place he got a much better reception from Blues than Paul Robinson from Albion.
Foster started a little worryingly but fortunately came into the game when he was needed, good catches released the pressure and he was called into real action a couple of times, tipping the ball over the bar for one and stopping a good effort that was top corner bound. Blues also had a good header go just over the bar.
Damari Gray and Wes Thomas arrived for Blues and Ideye arrived for Albion. It was the latter that nearly had the biggest impact. Brown picked up the ball, got at his opposition, it opened up to shoot but a confidence ridden striker was always going to play in Chris Brunt, the pass was over hit and Brunt did well to hit the post from a tight angle, with an on-running keeper.
A professional Albion survived the late attacks and ensured they were in the hat for round 5.
Strong named squad but not comfortable for various reasons. I may not have thought Birmingham would score but they looked far more likely than us.
Anichebe, I believe Pulis has said he isn’t fit enough? Spot on. It’s obvious.
Signings are needed, Pulis will know that but with so many sides out of it tonight shouldn’t be about new players because we’ve been handed a huge opportunity to have a distraction from a relegation battle. People hark on about it being a bad thing just listening to Stoke under Pulis and they’ve described it as a great distraction because EVERYONE wanted to be in the squads so everyone worked hard to get results and that helped league form because they knew a bad game could hurt cup opportunities.
I think Gary Rowett will be happier with performance today if I’m honest but Pulis will have learnt more from the game today. I’d say if we can learn more and still get the result that’s absolutely fantastic. After 4 matches we have 3 clean sheets, 1 goal conceded, 10 goals scored. It’s not a bad time to be a baggie!