Birmingham City 0 Charlton Athletic 1
Still grinning after a terrific day out on Saturday at St Andrews. With 850 other Addicks we clapped and sang our voices hoarse watching 11 heroes run their absolute socks off for 94 minutes and returned to the capital with 3 well deserved points.
The day started early for the three of us meeting Dave at Euston, a strong coffee trying to stabilize my body which was still a little shell-shocked from a record four and half hour flight from Bermuda to Gatwick the night before. A 150mph tail wind responsible for that.
It’s a quick hop to Birmingham New Street though, my son enjoying the 1st class carriage although that was where the opulence ended as we cabbed it to an ultimately disappointing Balti Triangle. The Sparkbrook area was certainly an eye-opener for my son born and bred in leafy Kent but like his old man he does love a curry, and we were satisfied with our choice, despite there being an absence of balti dishes on the menu.
The walk from there across town to St Andrews was depressing and whilst the Bullring has captured the 21st century, the re-gentrification of the second-city appears to end there.
St Andrews has also been dragged into the new century but it was a graveyard of it’s former self and the noisy band of Addicks dominated the atmosphere from start to finish. It was a far cry from the other times I’ve been when the old ground was filled with intimidation and noise.
Before I get into our own display, I have to say that Birmingham’s performance was one of the worst I have seen from a home side in many years and if we hadn’t have left with 3 points it would have been frustratingly disappointing. In fact during a lacklustre 1st half we were baying for us to take hold of the game because City really were there for the taking, although as the half finished our overall spirit looked too much for a somber looking Blues side and home crowd, although it was Ben Hamer who had to make the best save of the half from a snap Lee Novak shot.
2nd half kicking towards Addicks fans we started to put some good passing moves together with Stephens and Cousins wrestling control of the midfield, Jackson was everywhere and Wilson and Stewart were getting up and down the flanks quickly and dangerously.
Then approaching the hour mark we got the goal. Cameron Stewart, quiet in the first half, but menacing in the 2nd, at least until he got a knock, cut inside and a low shot was saved by ex-Addick Darren Randolph, but the ball came out to Jackson, who pounced but his effort was blocked and as the ball spun across the goal there was Dale Stephens alert to put into an empty net. Cue pandemonium in the away end as the players celebrated below us (photo).
To no real surprise we then dropped back to simply frustrate City and hit them on the break, and we did so with frequent regularity with Wilson especially, using the ball cleverly and swiftly breaking down the right side. Passes were sticking and a few ole’s came out of the away end as Addicks kept up the noise levels and encouragement.
Simon Church was immense and despite picking up a hefty looking knock in the build up to the goal continued to torment Birmingham’s lumbering and sorry-looking centre-backs, running into channels and twisting and turning around them.
City meanwhile were struggling to even pass the ball to each other as time after time passes were overhit out of the play. It would have been nice to get another goal, but the defence including Hamer was never going to be cracked despite the presence of 6ft 71/2 inch Nikola Zigic, all £60,000 a week of him and despite every ball forward by the Blues coming down with snow on it in the last 10 minutes, the Serbian was unable to break Addicks hearts for the second season running.
We celebrated at the end like we’d won the World Cup and why not. It was the perfect away performance and although it wasn’t quite promotion form, if promotions were won on spirit and togetherness then we’d be up by Christmas!
A final word on the skipper. His presence in the team should never be underestimated. He was excellent, especially playing the link-up role in front of Stephens and Cousins and behind Church. Before he was substituted he chased down a lost cause like it was the last time he was going to see a football.
I tweeted after the game that Jackson is the glue that holds this team together and moreover he is the fuse that connects the players and the fans. Great day and so glad we made the effort to get up there.
Addick Bloggers at St Andrews: Chris Powell’s Flat Cap; Drinking During the Game; Ramblings of a Football Fan.
Powell-ometer: Another change of formation with Jacko sat behind the tireless Church worked a dream. The perfect away performance based around another solid defensive display.
Elsewhere: Burnley came from 0-2 to draw at Millwall, Leicester won impressively at Watford and QPR beat Derby 2-1 at Loftus Road. Sheffield Wednesday were always going to win sometime and it was Reading on the end of 5-2 thrashing. Brighton won at Doncaster, Leeds beat Yeovil and Blackburn beat Middlesbrough. Blackpool kept up there great run winning at inconsistent Forest 1-0, Bolton won at Bournemouth and Wigan beat Huddersfield. On Friday night Barnsley and Ipswich drew 1-1.