After the abysmal showing at Huddersfield, I wasn't sure why, but I felt pretty good about the Birmingham game. We'd beaten Leyton Orient in the cup 4-0 at home, and had lost to Burnley 2-1 in the league. Birmingham hadn't won at home in a good few games, so I was optimistic. A relatively "local" game for me, I didn't leave the house until 10am, and made it just before 12 o'clock. Easy enough to find, and all around St Andrews there was ample free on-street parking. We wandered down into the city centre and found The White Swan for a quick drink and a cheese and onion cob (roll , for you Southerners and bap for the Northerners!) before taking a leisurely stroll back to the ground. The stewards were very well organised, with load of them prepared for checking our bags and directing us to our turnstiles. We were actually given a ticket in spite of paying on the day which I'm always grateful for - I like to keep my tickets on a corkboard at home as a memento of the trip.
On entering the ground it was very clear it was an ex-Premier League ground. A large concourse area with big screen TV's and very swish food outlets. We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted with no bother from the stewards and stood for the whole game.
On to the game, and initially the starting line up made me groan. Kieffer Moore starting? The new left back starting who hadn't played a competitive game since September? We heard before the game that Hoskins had recently undergone surgery and was going to be out for a few weeks. It didn't fill me with confidence. But how wrong I was!
Early pressure and possession from Birmingham made it feel like more of the Huddersfield-same, but it soon became an end-to-end affair. On 12 minutes, Hayter slotted home his first of the day from a pretty much gifted chance, to send the Yeovil faithful into uproar. Quickly after, the Brum keeper had to make a brilliant double save to keep us out. Kieffer Moore could have done better, but he certainly atoned himself in the remainder of the game. He was drawing defenders away from Hayter to give him space to move and create, and in the 19th minute Hayter drived it home again, sending us into complete elation!
The new left back - Bakayogo from Leicester - got injured towards half time, off the ball, with what looked like him turning awkwardly and his knee giving way. He was subbed off which was a real shame because up to that point, he looked solid and confident and certainly not like a player who hadn't had any game time since September. His replacement, McAllister, also went down with an injury when it looked like he had pulled his back, and fell to the ground again off the ball. He too had to be substituted, replaced by Lanzoni.
Even with two enforced changes however, we looked to be in control in spite of the possession stats (only 33% to Yeovil). We were playing some lovely passing football at times with class build up and several good shots on target. Birmingham, for all their nice approach play and skill, had no end product and poor finishing. Just before half time, Moore was brought down for a definite penalty, which on the radio they said could even have been a red card but the referee bottled it. The referee had a poor game, yet again we never seem to get the rub of the green from officials. Birmingham were very "professional" - making the most of every challenge and diving at every opportunity. And they have the audacity to call us the cheats after the cup game!? There were no real moments when I felt like they were certain to score, but that may have been down to buoyant confidence :) Stech however did make some class saves, and I would say he was a contender for man of the match.
But for a change it's difficult to pick a man of the match because everyone played so well and not because we're picking from a bad lot. Initially Grant was on the fringes but came into it especially into the second half. Hayter was class and I felt he worked very well with Moore. Ayling made some fantastic challenges at key moments to stem their forward charge. Webster cleared pretty much everything lofted up to him and again made some class last-ditch tackles. Edwards and Ralls worked hard - seriously I cannot single out a fault today. Perhaps I am still on cloud nine or perhaps its the several beers!!
I was unable to get tickets for Southampton in the cup so unless more are released, my next game is the night match against Derby on Tuesday the 28th, bring it on!