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Birmingham 2-1 Town
Birmingham 2-1 Town
Wednesday, 11th Jan 2012 22:01

Two goals from Nikola Zigic, both from long throws from the left, saw Birmingham to a 2-1 victory over the Blues at St Andrew’s. Town deserved more from the game with Lee Martin slamming in a superb equaliser and the winger should have been awarded a second half penalty prior to the Serb’s final moments winner.

Keeper Alex McCarthy made his debut in goal for the Blues, while Andy Drury, Lee Martin, Tommy Smith and Jason Scotland were also recalled to the starting line-up, Smith for the first time since the Southampton match in September.

Arran Lee-Barrett, Nathan Ellington and Josh Carson dropped to the bench, while Luke Hyam and the injured Damien Delaney were left out of the 16.

There were few chances in the opening minutes, skipper Grant Leadbitter striking a shot against a Birmingham player for the Blues. But it took only nine minutes for the home side to go in front.

David Murphy sent in a long throw from the left and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Ibrahima Sonko appeared to get in one another’s way, allowing 6ft 7½ tall Nikola Zigic to flick a header across debutant McCarthy and into the net off the post and his thigh. Conceding yet another poor goal was the last thing manager Paul Jewell needed, especially so early on.

Edwards headed Chris Burke’s right-wing cross out ahead of Jean Beausejour on 15 with the home side continuing to look the more threatening of the two teams. From the corner Zigic headed into the sidenetting.

On 18 the Blues got back on terms with probably their best goal of the season so far. Edwards held off Marlon King on the edge of his own area and passed back to McCarthy, although with the keeper rather more advanced than he expected and the on-loan Reading man had to run back to get the ball.

Once he’d retrieved it, the England U21 international kicked down the right and found Lee Martin, who pacily took the ball from halfway to 25 yards out, where he hit a stunning left-foot strike beyond Boaz Myhill’s right hand and into the net. It was a superb goal and the type of distance effort which has been too rare from Town this season.

Zigic headed a Burke freekick to McCarthy’s left on 26 but the keeper claimed comfortably. Birmingham were looking the bigger danger in front of goal but Town were having their fair share of the ball. On 28, Smith got a toe in as King looked to get on the end of a low Beausejour cross from the left.

But as the half wore on the Blues were increasingly on top, Martin making a darting run from right to left onto a loose ball, winning a freekick from a tight angle. Myhill battered away Leadbitter’s well-struck cross-shot.

Town were at times playing some lovely stuff, and that on a typical St Andrew’s pitch. A classy exchange of passes involving Martin, Leadbitter and Edwards ended with Scotland laying the ball back to Drury, whose shot was deflected into Myhill’s arms.

But there was also danger at the other end, Smith putting a toe in to dispossess King with the ex-Forest man all but through inside the penalty area in the 41st minute.

Town were good for the 1-1 scoreline at the break, having fought back well after the disappointing early goal. Martin’s excellent strike gave the Blues a lift but there had been no dropping of heads despite the home side having gone in front in the manner that they had. As the half continued, Town gained in confidence and were the better side at the whistle.

Birmingham switched their keepers at half-time, Colin Doyle taking over from Boaz Myhill. There was an early scare for the Blues when a long throw from the left ran loose but Cresswell cleared before Zigic could react.

Town’s first chance of the second period fell to Scotland, the Trinidadian cutting inside a defender in the area but his shot was deflected wide.

On 53 Martin directed a Cresswell cross over from close in but with the flag already raised. At the other end, Jonathan Spector wasted a good opportunity when he cut the ball back from the right behind a number of Birmingham attackers.

But largely the Blues had pretty much continued where they had left off before the break, Cresswell sending a dangerous ball across the Birmingham six-yard box on the hour with the home fans beginning to become frustrated.

Birmingham came close to going back in front on 63 when Burke crossed from the right and Edwards did brilliantly to block King’s shot at point blank range. After the ball had been cleared, Zigic clashed with the on-the-ground Cresswell, who reacted angrily, extending an arm towards the big Serb. Referee Rob Lewis spoke to both players without waving a card.

Martin wasn’t far away from his second of the game on 68 when Scotland laid off Cresswell’s cross from the left but the ex-Manchester United man’s shot deflected over.

Two minutes later Zigic headed straight into McCarthy’s arms when he should have done more with Keith Fahey’s cross from the right.

The Blues’ left flank was providing most of Birmingham’s danger, Sonko cutting out a Burke cross ahead of Zigic, then King hammering another ball in from the ex-Rangers man against the outside of McCarthy’s post.

Despite the home side threatening to get on top, a second Birmingham goal would have been harsh on Town, who had been the better side for most of the match but without testing either Birmingham keeper enough.

Michael Chopra replaced Jason Scotland, who had required treatment after a challenge by Fahey with 11 minutes remaining, Nathan Ellington having taken over from Emmanuel-Thomas on 74.

Town should have been awarded what looked a clear penalty with 10 minutes left on the clock. Fahey’s poor header inside his area played Martin in on goal and Steven Caldwell tripped him. A penalty looked a formality but referee Rob Lewis waved away the extensive protests. Soon after, Leadbitter picked up the game’s first yellow card for dissent at another freekick.

Burke shot over as the game entered its final five minutes, then with the match now in injury time, Birmingham won it. The Blues failed to deal with another long throw from the left which had been flicked on and Zigic took a couple of touches before beating McCarthy from close range. Soon after, the whistle went, Paul Jewell making his anger at the penalty decision clear to referee Lewis as the players made their way off.

The late goal was a huge blow for the Blues and thoroughly undeserved on the balance of the game, particularly given the failure of the officials to award what appeared a blatant penalty only minutes earlier.

Overall, Town can count themselves unlucky not to have got something out of the match, they will play worse and win this season. But again two moments of defensive hesitancy were again their downfall.

Despite the display, the bottom line is that it was the Blues’ fourth defeat in a row which keeps them 20th in the table and results will have to improve soon if Jewell is going to continue as manager for too much longer.

Birmingham (4-4-2): Myhill (Doyle 46), Spector, Davies, Caldwell, Murphy, Burke, Gomis (Mutch 81), Fahey, Beausejour (Redmond 73), Zigic, King. Unused: Ridgewell, Rooney.

Town (4-4-2): McCarthy, Edwards, Sonko, Smith, Cresswell, Martin, Leadbitter, Drury, Murphy, Emmanuel-Thomas (Ellington 74), Scotland (Chopra 79). Subs: Lee-Barrett, Ainsley, Carson. Referee: Rob Lewis (Shrewsbury). Att: 16,528 (Town: 569).

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