Birmingham 1-1 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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Another nice easy away trip for me and MrsB, Birmingham is a straightforward enough trip via the old familiar M1/M6 and when you get there you realise straight away why Tolkien based his famous portrayal of Mordor as a “land that was dying but not quite dead” on Birmingham, you can see he had a point. Nothing much has changed…

The clueless locals who populate this dreary place add nothing to the experience, their nasal, whiney voices, resonating through every fucking syllable they utter, remind you that Cletus the slack jawed yokel from the Simpson’s has spilt his seed further than Springfield…

St Andrews used to be a bit of a hot bed of a stadium but sad to say this once impressive fixture for the Lions has drifted away into yet another subjugated affair thanks to military style policing and the eternal damnation of happy clappy supporters.

I like the stadium, apart from the old stand away to our left; it is a relatively modern place, the food and drink are palatable and due to the numbers dwindling at our away games, plenty of room in the away section. Just over 500 Lions fans were out and about for this one and they did their best to try and instil some atmosphere but it was a lost cause, the life has been sucked out of this place and it seems it will never return.

Mr Jackett made four changes to the team that bored a draw at home to Ipswich, opting for a 4-5-1 sort of line up so the team was as follows, Forde in goal, Dunne, Shittu, Beevers and Lowry as the back four, Feeney, St Ledger, Trotter, Chaplow and Taylor C in the five man midfield leaving Hulse as the lone front man.

Referee Hill started the game and to start with we feared the team were worrying too much about a certain Wembley appearance on the horizon as we just seemed to let Birmingham come at us with very little in the way of us attacking them, Forde made an excellent save down to his right from a fierce Thomas shot and was on hand again soon after, safely tipping a looping free kick over the bar for a corner from the impressive Redmond.

It was Redmond again, causing us all sorts of problems down the right flank, who created a clear cut chance for the home side, this time bamboozling Dunne and firing over a decent cross that found the gangly, long streak of paralysed piss that is Zigic who headed the ball to Morrison who should’ve buried the ball but fired it hopelessly high over Forde’s goal.

We weathered the early storm though and started to get a bit of rhythm going, Trotter looked sharper than he has this year, was beginning to show signs of his old self and Feeney made a couple of decent crosses that kept Birmingham on their toes at the back. The midfield quintet was working quite well and Hulse didn’t seem too out of sorts as a lone front man, in fact, we started looking quite comfortable.

Taylor though was looking the most dangerous player for us and when he latched on to a loose ball and went marauding into their area he was clearly tripped up by a desperate lunge from Davis. Referee Hill blew immediately for we thought was a stuck on penalty but for reasons best known to the man in the middle, he booked Taylor for diving.

It wasn’t the ref’s worse decision by a long way though…

The next passage of play a few minutes later can only be described as bizarre. I have never in all my years seen anything like it at a football match. Feeney produced more good work down the right and flashed over a cross that saw Taylor connect and from our view at the far end of the ground it looked like it went straight in. 0-1, get in, E-I-O and all that good stuff…but wait, the lino had raised his flag, why? We didn’t know and nor did the ref but suddenly the goal was wiped out. The Lions players then convinced the ref to go to the lino to find out why he flagged and after some deliberation the ref pointed to the centre circle indicating that the goal stood. Hoorah for us, 0-1, get in, E-I-O and all that good stuff part 2, but wait…now the Birmingham players were surrounding the ref and as he waved away their protests he suddenly stopped in his tracks and pushed his finger into his ear, nodded his head, stuck his thumb up at the fourth official and cancelled out the goal and gave a goal kick.

The announcer had already announced the goal, the score board had it up as 0-1 and all this took about 6 minutes to sort out but it stayed at 0-0 and I guess you had to be there to fully understand how ludicrous the whole episode was. How the ref writes this up in his report without losing all credibility as a referee is anybody’s guess.

To our credit though, we didn’t let this upset our game and we kept our shape and we kept our concentration and with about ten minutes of the half left this was just as well because Forde pulled off a truly magnificent save as Thomas hit a ferocious volley that gave the Irish international no chance to prepare so the save was instinctive but absolutely brilliant.

Butland, in goal for Birmingham was also in good form, saving well from a trotter header and then taking a cross from Taylor right off the head of Hulse as it looked odds on for the striker to score.

The game was held up further after a Birmingham player (Specter) fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off yet despite the goal shenanigans and this lengthy hold up, the fourth official held up a mere 3 minutes of stoppage time.

The half ended at 0-0 but it was a very entertaining half of football.

A nice touch by some of the Millwall chaps, a couple of sombre flags were displayed listing many (far too many, actually) Millwall fans who were no longer with us, well done to all involved with that, it was a touching moment and one I suspect no other footballing fraternity would ever understand or contemplate doing.

The start of the second forty five saw no changes to our side but as per the opening of the fisrt half, we were on the back foot from the off. Forde again coming to the rescue, saving smartly from Morrison but with only about three or four minutes played we got caught napping when a fairly routing ball into Thomas saw him suddenly spin around and dispatch the ball past Forde and into the net. No debates about this one, the goal stood and we suddenly found ourselves 1-0 down.

We took this on the chin and went in search of an equaliser and Birmingham started wobbling almost straight away.

Their back four started making unforced errors as we went looking for an equaliser but we were not really getting much luck. Chaplow had to go off around the hour mark which could easily have knocked us off our stride but Woolford came on and we carried on regardless. Easter came into the game at the expense of Feeney a few minutes after the forced substitution and we went to a more normal 4-4-2 and this confused the fuck out of the already disjointed Birmingham defence. Wayward pack passes should have been capitalised on by Easter and Hulse but again the rub of the green was not going our way.

Time was ticking by now and referee Hill, who by now was about as popular with the Millwall fans as a drag queen at a tractor pull, was not doing anything to endear himself to us, his haphazard type of refereeing was more suited to Hackney Marshes than the championship.

With twenty minutes of the game left though, all our good work and endeavours finally paid off. With the Blues defence on the back foot yet again the ball found its way to Hulse on the left side of the box, he looked up and played a well thought out pass across the edge of the area to Taylor who steadied himself and fired an unstoppable shot past the flat footed Butland and this time there was no nonsense, 1-1 and thoroughly deserved it was too.

The goal spurred us on to look for the winner and in truth we should have got it. We certainly had the chances to win it, Dunne cantering down the right sent over a lovely cross that was met by St ledger who saw his thumping header smash against the cross bar and bounce away to safety for the home side and in the closing minutes, Easter was fed by Hulse but his inventive shot flew just over the bar.

Birmingham were the more relieved side to hear the final whistle and although we gained another point in the road to survival, it was still a case of what might have been.

The lads were applauded off at the finish and all in all I suspect many of us would have settled for a draw before a ball was kicked.

We then had to wait about an hour before the local constabulary deemed it OK for us to leave so because we had our grandson with us we had to make an unscheduled stop at the services on the way home to feed and water him and so we chose Newport Pagnall…now if you are anything like me you will consider anything north of the Elephant as up North and you do see some fucking strange things from our Norvern monkey chums at times. We went in to get some grub and in the queue for some KFC were a bride and groom in full wedding kit with guests interspersed at other food outlets queuing up for bargain buckets and meal deals. How classy is that…

Anyway, we sorted ourselves out so food and made our way home, Birmingham a distant memory and thoughts turning to the next game.

Tuesday night and the visit of Sheffield Wednesday where we must grab a home win at long last to stave off the final threat of relegation before we take on Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final (which is next Saturday, just in case you didn’t know…) I do hope we don’t have to go into the Wigan game still worrying about getting dragged down into a dog fight with the other has-beens in the Championship…

"Delays have dangerous ends". - (King Henry VI, Part 1, Act III, Scene II).
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    Great report.