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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
23/10 Brum 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 1 Birmingham City 1
23 Oct 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
The Blues kicked off with a rush. For the first 6 or 7 minutes of the second half Birmingham played a more physical (not dirty), direct and fast game. Within a minute of the restart Adebole had been set free on the right edge of the Town area and hit a low shot straight at Coyne. From exactly the same position he scored last year. After 51 minutes the Birmingham centre back, Purse, thundered a header against the bar from 12 yards following a corner on the Town left. After that Birmingham stopped playing, they seemed to sit back a little and be content with a draw (with the hint of a breakaway goal). Town recovered well from the early pressure and regained a semblance of control over the midfield and, surprisingly, raised the pace of their own game. Town started to take quick free kicks and, especially, quick throw ins (mainly down the right) which put Birmingham on the back foot constantly. For the next half hour it was all Town pressure with Birmingham holding on. The Birmingham defenders played relatively intelligently, particularly against Lester who they did not tackle when he went into the area, they simply crowded him out and blocked.
Halfway through the second half Rowett seemed to go a bit loopy. After fouling D Smith near the Lower Stones/Findus he turned round and bawled at the referee (including an extremely obvious "Oh F... Off"). A minute later, after a minor foul, he ran up and pushed the referee. At the same time O'Connor bawled out the ref. Rowett was very lucky not to be sent off, I thought that the laying of hands on the referee was an immediate red card and long suspension
Most of Town's efforts were from outside the area, which says much for the quality of the Brum defence. Town's first real effort of the half came from Pouton, who hit a right foot volley just over the angle of post and bar from 20 yards. Allen produced a couple of shots from the edge of the area which, though accurate, did not have sufficient power to cause Bennett any difficulties. Town really piled on the pressure between the 60th and 70th minute. After a period of pressure, with the ball going across the goal from right to left, a clearance hit D Smith in the face. The ball rebounded to the centre, where it was half cleared to Groves, about 20 yards out on the Town left, about level with the 6 yard box. Groves shaped his body superbly and smacked a right foot volley against the foot of the 'keepers right hand post. The ball rebounded off the post on to the 'keepers head and went out for a corner.
A few minutes later D Smith picked up a loose ball about 30 yards out, he turned and advanced towards the area. From about 25 yards out, slightly to the left of centre, he drive a shot towards the top left hand right corner of the goal. Bennett leapt "like a stick of rhubarb" (copyright D Gibbins 1997) to his right and tipped the ball over for a corner. It was a fantastic save as the ball seemed to be dipping over him and to be creeping under the bar. Birmingham had only one period of pressure which resulted in Coyne tipping over a header from the far post, but the referee gave town a free kick for pushing. So no danger anyway.
With about 15 minutes left Town had their last real chance. Allen won the ball centrally near the half way line and set off towards goal. The Birmingham defenders retreated, conceding the space to Lester and Allen. Allen advanced to the last defender and passed to Lester. Allen then set off on a run behind the defender and was unmarked about 30 yards out, right in the centre, with an unimpeded run towards goal. Rather than pass to Allen, Lester decided to dribble into the area. He beat 2 defenders and got to the bye-line, about 6 yards to the left of the goal. He produced a loopy chip to the far post where D Smith was waiting, about 8 yards out. Unfortunately for D Smith there was not much pace on the ball and, by the time it had dropped, two defenders and the goalkeeper had thrown themselves across the goal. D Smith's volley was blocked a yard or two off the line by the human wall of blueness. Town had had several corners which had produced a modicum of panic in the Birmingham defence. The combination of Pouton's flight and Lever's presence saw the ball drift through the centre 3 or 4 times. Unfortunately, the ball seemed to go just behind a Town player, with Groves being the nearest when he was 5 yards out but the ball went a couple of feet behind him. Pouton nearly produced an outrageous attempt at goal when a D Smith cross went behind him and he attempted to do a back flick, but he missed, so it wasn't. Maybe next week then.
In the last 10 minutes Birmingham came forward more, and again reverted to a more direct game. This produced several moments of danger, particularly from Wreh. They produced a further 4 efforts on goal, with them all falling to Wreh, who put every one of them over the bar. A couple were exact replicas of his first half miss (Adebole heads down to Wreh who shimmies, side steps and hoofs over the bar). In the last minute Wreh had a shooting opportunity from the edge of the area, in a central position. His shot was worse than anything Pouton has yet conjured up, it screwed way, way high and wide. That was the last opportunity of the game and despite the referee playing 2 minutes more added time than was shown on the board, that was that.
Overall Town shaded the game with a committed performance which included one or two things Town are not renowned for (quick throw ins, flat fast crossing, a poacher sniffing out loose balls in the area). Pouton was superb and you will not find anyone coming out of Blundell Park advocating Donovan's return. D Smith improved as the game went, I think the whack on the head did him good. Lever produced an acceptable performance, with only one wild mis-kick. He marked Adebole very well, neutralising most of his aerial threat. In fact no-one can be criticised too much. Lester did provide a constant threat (mostly to my blood pressure), though he was marked intelligently and, especially in the second half, played with little awareness of his team-mates positioning. Lester appeared to want to beat the 4th and 5th defender before considering his options.
Yet again Coyne had little to do and I can't remember him being forced to make a save of any distinction. He was not at fault for the goal, and didn't miss any crosses today. He came out for one cross and punched it away solidly. Such was the defensive solidity that Birmingham were kept away from the 6 yards area. Butterfield was defensively sound, though his distribution is Agnew-esque and his crossing worse.
The crowd left Blundell Park pleased with the performance and result. It was a fine and interesting game of football and Town certainly deserved at least a point. This was a fixture that no-one seemed to be looking forward to, The crowd turned up fearing the worst, but left smiling. Birmingham didn't enjoy their trip this year, that say a lot about the game doesn't it. Things aren't too bad at Blundell Park.
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