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Birmingham City
Posted by Arun Verma on 04/23/2011

A few good results and how the tide turns. Blues have won a couple of games and all of a sudden they look a good bet for survival. Thank god for that.

Victories over Bolton and Sunderland have come at a crucial time got the club, and it has got the survival bid right back on track. Since the Carling Cup Final, Blues have been a team running on empty, and McLeish was a man desperate for the International break (not often you hear that!). The break came and went, and a re-energised and recharged team came to the fore. The Champions appeared once again.

The two victories have been nervy and tense but hey, there's no problem with that. You only need to look at our neighbours recent win over Newcastle to see what nerves do to you. Completely in control, heading for victory, and they neat threw it all away. Nearly. It just shows that tension from the fans feeds onto the pitch and has an unnerving effect on all involved.

Reverting to type, Alex McLeish called upon the services of the forgotten man at St Andrews. Unlike in years gone by, when the forgotten man has been someone actually pants like Olivier Tebily (although he did try!) and Marcus Bent, Big 'Eck called for the re-arrival of Super Kevin Phillips. The best finisher in the Premier League, bar none. He doesn't have any pace, he isn't the most skilful, he's short, he's bald, but by 'Eck, he can put a ball into the back of the net from anywhere.

The finish in the Bolton FA Cup game reassured everyone that he hasn't lost it just yet, and he more than justified his inclusion in the league game. Was it the right decision? Would McLeish be left to rue his decision to reinstate the old guard? No chance. Four minutes in, justification. The corner came in and Super Kev latched onto the loose ball, turned and placed the ball through the bodies and not even the outstretched arms of Jussi Jaaskelainen could stop the King. One-nil. Relief. The break had done us the world of good, and Blues looked impressive again...about time too.

We didn't run riot, but Bluenoses were comfortable. We were happy. Fancy that, a happy Brummie?! Bolton had a few half chances but you just got a feeling that this was ours. The sun was out, the boys were back and the sky was as perfect as E.L.O. promised it would be. We weren't going to lose. Not today, lad.

Into the second half and a decent build-up saw Cameron Jerome's deft set-down (yes I said deft, not daft. Fancy that?) fell perfectly for the onrushing Craig Gardner. Guess what happened next? Gardner. Blast. Back of the net. A fantastic goal and a terrific finish, and Birmingham City were 2-0 up! Imagine that! We, the team who never win by more than a goal, were leading by 2! Fantastic...then it hit you. You knew they'd score. Just one. It was all a bit too good to be true, and as scripted, defenders backed off and Johan Elmander got a lifeline. Great. Pressure on. We had to see this one out...

It was a nervy last 10 minutes, but none were as nerve-shredding as the final two, when Ben Foster made two terrific saves to secure all three points. It did raise the question of when is a big club going to come in for him? Yeah, it's only been one season, but let's be honest 'Noses, we've uncovered another absolute gem. First Hart, and now Foster. Two shot-stoppers who have improved immeasurably while at the club, but while Hart had to return to Manchester, Foster's ours. For how long? Well, let's start praying, cause with him behind our defence, we've got a right royal chance of progression. Onwards and upwards.

Excuse the digression, but Foster's magnificent contribution provided Blues with 3 crucial points and sent the near-capacity crowd into raptures. We were back on track.

Roll on Blackburn, roll on a point. McLeish lauded it as an important draw, but it could have been so much better if Liam Ridgewell hadn't lost his concentration to allow a soft equaliser. However, after the type of season that he's had, can we lambast Liam as such? Thought not. He's another who has had a fabulous season and has otherwise done well since bring asked to revert back to centre back. Just think, a centre-back, who seemed error probe when he arrived from the Villa, who has come good. Sorry, Curtis who..? Keep the faith.

Well, with their renewed faith following the Bolton victory, Blues welcomed a team in a miserable run of form, and a manager with an awfully big head. You could tell clearly from the opening exchanges that here was a team very low confidence levels, and it was a defence to be attacked. You got the feeling that if you went at them, they would make mistakes, and fold.

In the opening minutes, it looked just like we'd do just that. Good times. Cameron Jerome broke away and found himself one-on-one with the keeper and with an excellent chance to give Blues the lead...he didn't. However, Blues huffed and puffed but somehow, and it still mystifies me as to how, Sunderland survived. Geordie chants of...well, I don't know, but there were chants anyway, in some language, as Sunderland started to gain a measure of control over proceedings.

With the mercurial Gyan up-front, you did worry that any one bit of magic from the Ghanaian could set Sunderland alight and really get this game going, and a Barry Ferguson mistake let Sunderland through the gate but for a last ditch clearance by Roger Johnson which kept Blues in the game, and in the fight.

Sunderland gained momentum and camped themselves within the Blues half, and it didn't look good. Blues' play became sloppy, passes weren't finding their men and we looked on edge. Would the mounting tension take its toll? A long ball was returned to sender by Ben Foster, and Cameron Jerome nodded the ball on. As it travelled downfield, your heart sank a little. Another wasted chance...Seb Larsson didn't think so.

The super Swede chased the ball down, and put enough pressure upon keeper Mignolet and defender Bardsley for the two to royally mess it up, allowing Seb to nick in and add to the list of woes for Sunderland. With Blues one-up, it seemed to spark the game into life. Sunderland looked menacing and attacked in a way which made you question really why they were on such a bad run.

Into the second period, and you expected that Sunderland would throw the kitchen sink at Blues. Did they? Well, kind of. It was one of those strange games where you watched and believed that no matter what Sunderland did, the Blues rearguard would not give-in. In an attempt to relieve the pressure, McLeish threw on Alex Hleb for his first game in, well, a long time, and the Belarus international star provided an immediate impact.

Calm and assured, Hleb took his time in possession before laying it into the path of Craig Gardner who sealed a second straight win for Blues with a terrific left footed strike. Keeper Mignolet got nowhere near it, again, and it was probably another blunder, but who cares? 2-0 Blues and we were looking at a possible 7 points from 3 games.
In truth, the rest of the game was a bit of a non-encounter, apart from a couple of impressive stops by Foster (no surprise there, then) and a late, poor miss from Matt Derbyshire (no surprise there, then, either).

The rest of the game petered out as Blues saw the game through, and the cheer at the final whistle was one of joy, relief, and realisation that safety was within touching distance. Three more points and we'll be clear. Happy days.

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About
Arun Verma Arun Verma - I'm a student, and a massive Birmingham City fan. Football has played a massive part in my life since I was just a child, and the World Cup in '98 turned me into a footballaholic; my very first love was the beautiful game. My aim for the future is to become a sports journalist and in little over a year, I can say that I feel extremely privileged to have received the opportunities that have come my way. Apart from ESPN Soccernet, I also write for the official Birmingham City Football Club Matchday Magazine, Made in Brum, which is an unofficial Blues magazine, and www.joysandsorrows.co.uk (using the tagname akvbcfc). If you would like to contact me about anything I have written about, feel free to email me at arun.k.verma.91@gmail.com.

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