|Birmingham City 0 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 3rd November 2012 Kick-off 15:00
Birmingham City 0-1 Town
Saturday, 3rd Nov 2012 17:14
DJ Campbell’s third goal in five games for the Blues saw Town to a 1-0 victory over his old club Birmingham City at St Andrew’s. Town were the better side in the first half and were worthy of their lead at the break, but the home side came into it more in a second period in which sub Nikola Zigic failed to take two good chances.
Guirane N’Daw – who spent last season on loan at St Andrew’s - and Nigel Reo-Coker were named in Mick McCarthy’s first Town team, the duo taking over in midfield from Luke Hyam and Josh Carson.
The Blues started 4-4-2 with Daryl Murphy – who played for McCarthy at Sunderland as a striker – up front alongside DJ Campbell – another ex-Birmingham player - with Richie Wellens and Lee Martin in the wide positions.
The game got off to a cagey start but Town, making a rare appearance in their white away kit, went ahead in the eighth minute with the first shot of the game.
Nathan Redmond gifted possession to Lee Martin on the Blues’ right and the winger brought the ball in and hit a low effort which reached DJ Campbell on the edge of the six-yard box. The on-loan QPR frontman found himself space before spinning and lashing across Jack Butland and into the top corner of the net.
On the balance of the first quarter-hour Town were deservedly in front with the experienced Reo-Coker, N’Daw and Wellens pulling the strings in midfield and Campbell and Murphy giving the home side’s backline a difficult time, although without creating any further significant chances.
On 20 Butland dropped a high ball under pressure from Campbell but Curtis Davies managed to clear before a Town player could get on to it.
For Birmingham, Wade Elliott hit a low shot which Stephen Henderson saved down to his right as the home side began to make some impact on the game.
But it was still mainly Town and in the 25th minute Murphy hit a low effort through to Butland. Not long after, N’Daw – clearly keen to emulate Campbell in netting against his old club - went somewhat less close with an ambitious 35-yarder which went out for a throw-in.
Marlon King struck a powerful 30-yard freekick straight down the middle on the half hour but Henderson was able to push over.
On 32 a Wellens corner from the left was cleared only as far as Danny Higginbotham, who blasted a shot against a defender. From the resultant corner, Edwards – who had recovered from an early knock - saw a strike blocked, then Martin tried replicate his goal in last season’s 2-1 defeat at St Andrew’s but England keeper Butland did superbly to get across to his right to push his 25-yard strike around the post.
At the other end, Redmond sent in a dangerous ball from the right, which Luke Chambers stabbed out for a corner. From the flagkick, David Murphy headed wide.
As the half moved towards injury time, Murphy was played in by Campbell on the left but a number of defenders came across to close him down and his touch took the ball out of play.
There was a late scare when King was found inside the area on the left but, after initially failing to clear and the ball deflecting to David Murphy, Edwards eventually got the ball away from danger.
The home side were briefly booed by their support as referee Stuart Attwell blew his whistle for half-time.
Town had been good for their lead, controlling the game for the most part, although only occasionally looking like adding to their lead. The midfield engine room of Reo-Coker, Wellens and N’Daw had the better of their Birmingham counterparts, with the Senegalese international breaking up play in front of the back four.
The trio, who at times temporarily switched roles, were augmented by the more attacking Martin down the right. Strikers Murphy and Campbell had looked threatening and the Blues backline had prevented keeper Henderson from being tested too often.
Birmingham swapped Chris Burke for Nathan Redmond at the break and in the first minute King was almost played in on goal but Cresswell tracked him into the area and Henderson claimed.
Town were quickly on the offensive too, a Wellens corner causing problems for the Birmingham defence before finally being cleared, then a Davies heading out a Martin cross from the right after good work from Campbell.
The Blues weren’t far from a second in the 58th minute when a freekick from midway inside the Birmingham half on the right was played short to Edwards. The Trinidadian sent in a deep cross, which Higginbotham headed powerfully goalwards, only for Butland to block. Birmingham skipper Stephen Caldwell put the loose ball out of play as the Town centre-half held his head in his hands.
Birmingham switched 6ft 8in tall Nikola Zigic for the ineffective Leroy Lita just after the hour, the Serbian international having netted twice in last season’s corresponding fixture.
Elliott lashed wide on 63 with the home fans starting to get behind their team. For the Blues, Cresswell crossed from the left but too close to Butland.
Zigic threatened for the first time in the 66th minute. King crossing from the right and the Serbian nodding wide when in space and when he will feel he should have done much, much better.
On 73 sub Zigic was played in on goal by King and should have netted the equaliser, but Henderson was out quickly to stick out a leg and block.
The home side were starting to turn the screw with Zigic having proved a significant threat since his introduction, even if he had failed to take what were two very good chances. The Serbian was spoken to by referee Attwell on 78, presumably for blocking a Henderson clearance with his hand, although it wasn’t clear.
The home side thought they were going to be awarded a penalty on 80 when King tumbled as he went past Henderson but the linesman’s flag had already been raised.
Bilel Mohsni replaced the tiring Wellens for the final nine minutes, the on-loan Leicester man having put in his best display for the Blues. The Frenchman took up an attacking role with Murphy moving wide.
Ravel Morrison tricked his way past a number of Town defenders before looping a shot on to the roof of the net on 83, then the Blues broke through Reo-Coker and Murphy, the Irishman sending in a cross which Mohsni just failed to reach. Moments later, the on-loan Southend man was booked for catching Caldwell with an arm.
As the game moved into its final scheduled two minutes, King had a powerful shot blocked by Chambers, then, as the fourth official signalled four minutes of additional time, Andy Drury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced N’Daw, who had moments earlier picked up a knock, and goalscorer Campbell.
The home side continued to put on the pressure, defender Davies blazing over from inside the area with a minute of injury time remaining when he really should have done better. A late Mullins strike was blocked by Higginbotham and the Blues weren’t to be denied their victory.
While they had had much the better of the first period, the second was a more dogged, determined display and for once the Blues held on to give Mick McCarthy his first win as the Town boss.
As the midfielders in particular tired, they rode their luck at times, Zigic failing to take the type of chances which he netted in this fixture last year to win his side the three points. Henderson made a superb save from the Serbian, while Chambers and Higginbotham both made fantastic blocks.
At the end, the new manager applauded his players and his new fans, and encouraged his team to go and pay tribute to the 1,054-strong travelling Blue army who had made the trip to see the McCarthy era begin in earnest.
Town: Henderson, Edwards, Chambers, Higginbotham, Cresswell, N'Daw (Drury 90), Wellens (Mohsni 79), Reo-Coker, Martin, Murphy, Campbell (Emmanuel-Thomas 90). Subs: Loach, Smith, Chopra, Scotland.
Birmingham: Butland, Robinson, Davies, Caldwell, Murphy, Redmond (Burke 46), Mullins, Morrison, Elliott (Lovenkrands 83), Lita (Zigic 61), King. Subs: Doyle, Packwood, Diop, Ambrose. Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire) Att: 18,063 (Town: 1,054).
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