Birmingham 2-2 Town
Saturday, 16th Sep 2006 21:47
Goals from Alan Lee and Simon Walton helped the Blues to a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City. But Town will be disappointed not to have claimed all three points having gifted the home side two equalisers, the second after Bruno N'Gotty had been sent off for kicking out at Alan Lee.
The Blues made two changes from the side which defeated Coventry on Tuesday. Alex Bruce was unavailable under the terms of the summer transfer agreement between the two clubs and Richard Naylor took over alongside Jason De Vos. Fabian Wilnis dropped out after the warm-up due to his thigh problem and Sito came into the side.
Birmingham almost went in front in the first minute, David Dunn's corner from the left finding Cameron Jerome, but the former Cardiff man diverted the ball over the bar. After weathering some early pressure, Town began to enjoy much of the possession but without creating any chances.
On 15 the Blues had a lucky escape when Radhi Jaidi won a header from a corner but Sito was well placed to block his effort on the line. A minute later Simon Walton was booked for a foul on Jerome.
Gavin Williams, whose influence on the game was growing, hit a 25-yard shot which was easy for Maik Taylor after a long spell of possession by the Blues. Soon after, Jon Macken won the ball on the left and sent in a low ball but behind Alan Lee.
In the 31st minute Mark Noble took the ball past a defender on the left before cutting in and hitting a low shot at Taylor's near post, but the keeper was equal to it.
Cameron Jerome, having already caught both Jason De Vos and Richard Naylor with elbows earlier on, surprisingly escaped a booking for a late 32nd minute lunge on Lewis Price with the keeper already having comfortably claimed the ball.
Price still seemed a bit shaky a minute or two later when he spilled David Dunn's deflected 20-yard shot, Richard Naylor reacting quickly to clear the danger.
Sylvain Legwinski shot over from 25 yards, then Lee's header from Sito's cross was also too high as Town ended the half the better side. Lee collided with Jaidi as he headed the ball and the former Bolton man had to be replaced with Martin Taylor.
It had been an entertaining half with a confident looking Blues passing the ball around slickly for much of the time and Gavin Williams at the heart of most of the best attacking endeavours. Birmingham had shown little of note apart from a couple of dangerous set pieces.
Unfortunately for Town, Gavin Williams failed to return after the break due to a groin injury which may keep him out of next week's home game with Sunderland. Darren Currie took over.
Shortly after the restart, former Colchester midfielder Neil Danns got away on the right but could only hit his shot into the sidenetting.
But not long after, the Blues went in front. Jon Macken returned the ball into the box after a corner from the left and Richard Naylor just got his head to it but without any power. David Dunn miscontrolled the loose ball into the path of Alan Lee, who lashed a left foot shot across Taylor on the turn and into the corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
Bruno N'Gotty prevented a second Town goal a minute later when he reached a Lee cross from the right ahead of the again impressive Noble. Lee might have done better soon after when he beat keeper Taylor to a through ball but couldn't find the angle to shoot before he was dispossessed.
Lee was offered a gilt-edged chance to put Town two up in the 55th minute when Macken won the ball deep in the Birmingham half and squared it to the ex-Rotherham man on the edge of the box. However, Lee chose to take a second touch rather than taking a first time effort and a defender stuck in a toe.
Birmingham replaced the ineffective Jerome with Mikael Forssell with Town largely on top, although by now playing a more containing game. Price was quickly off his line to grab the ball from DJ Campbell's feet on 63, then Walton shot wide after being teed up by Macken.
Mark Noble will feel he should have scored in the 66th minute when a superb Darren Currie cross from the right reached him at the far post but his shinned effort flew wide. At the other end, Dunn's shot from the right of the Town area deflected wide. From the corner, Danns's header went wide.
The home side got back on terms in the 74th minute when David Dunn hit a shot which shouldn't have troubled Lewis Price. The keeper appeared to have it in his grasp but let it go and DJ Campbell was first to the loose ball and made no mistake.
A goal was more than Birmingham had deserved on the balance of play and it took Town only four minutes to restore their lead. A loose ball broke to Simon Walton on the edge of the area and the goal-a-game holding midfielder struck a shot which deflected into the net off Bruno N'Gotty.
The ex-Bolton defender relieved his frustration by kicking out at a prone Alan Lee, right in front of referee Howard Webb who prevented the incident from escalating by immediately showing a red card and prompting a second surge in terrace celebrations.
A disconsolate N'Gotty, who had spent most of the half hanging from the back of Lee's shirt, slowly made his way around the outside of the pitch as Town switched Macken for Billy Clarke.
It looked like Jim Magilton's Blues would go on to record their fourth successive win but Birmingham struck back again on 83. Sito picked up a yellow card for a somewhat cynical foul on Gary McSheffrey to the left of the area when it appeared that Jason De Vos would have got across to clear ahead of the former Coventry man.
The Blues left David Dunn unmarked on the edge of the box and the freekick was played across the midfielder who hit his first effort into the wall but his second flew through a crowded area and past Price.
Town, who replaced Simon Walton with Dean Bowditch in the final minute, went looking for a third but couldn't find the telling ball into the box.
But in truth the game should have been well won by that stage with both Birmingham goals the result of errors. The Blues ought to have taken one or two other chances too, most notably Lee's after Macken had caught a defender in possession.
That said, prior to kick-off a 2-2 draw would have been most welcome, but the Blues more than matched the home side, who had started the afternoon at the top of the table, and on today's evidence look as likely as Birmingham to be involved at the upper end of the table come May.
Town: Price, Sito, Harding, Naylor, De Vos, Walton (Bowditch 90), Noble, Legwinski, Williams (Currie 46), Macken (Clarke 81), Lee. Unused: Supple, Barron. Att: 20,841.
Photo: Action Images
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