A free Saturday is a luxury I do not often have so I`ve packed up the lap top and headed round to a friends house to watch the FA Cup clash with Birmingham.
He neither supporters Wolves or Birmingham but for some reason he has ESPN so he has me as a house guest for the early part of the afternoon! No women, no children, just beer and cold pizza, it should be a nice lunchtime in front of the 40″ HD Plasma. The wife often tells me size doesn`t matter, but it really does…
The pre-game build up was done by the lovely Rebecca Lowe which was a nice bonus, it was a shame it was ruined by some strange Robbie Savage appreciation society VT but as it was the highlights of his career it was over pretty quickly.
We then had a nice interview with Roger Johnson again discussing the reasons behind his departure from Birmingham which he spoke about in E&S ahead of the game, will he be booed will he be praised by the Blues? Who cares really, he is now at Wolves and that`s all that matters to me!
Then it was a video of “behind the scenes” at Birmingham including the laundry room and boot room, fascinating stuff, the one thing that jumped at me was that does no-one have black boots anymore? One lad had lime green boots, while the centre half had while boots.
So team news and who will be taking the game seriously? For both sides this is an escape from two very different league campaigns. Wolves are of course in a relegation battle to survive in the Premier League, while Birmingham are desperate to return there after relegation last season.
Birmingham made seven changes from their last outing with the manager claiming that some of the changes were forced upon him and Wolves handed Jonsson his debut while making five changes with our Mick wanting to freshen things up (and rest Fletcher I would think).
It`s a strong enough looking Wolves side, while I know little about some of the players coming into the Birmingham team, so it`s very difficult to judge! We must surely be seen as favourites though, but does Mick McCarthy really want the distraction of a FA Cup run? Or will he see it as a good way to win a match and build some momentum?
Before the game we then had a minute`s applause for the late Gary Ablett, both sets of supporters joined in before the referee blew his whistle while the Birmingham fans sang out “one Gary Ablett”, a nice touch.
Birmingham kicked off in what appeared to be a half empty St. Andrew`s, who says the magic of the FA Cup has been lost? The pitch also looks terrible and it wasn`t a surprise to see Birmingham immediately resort to lumping it forward by passing the midfield.
Roger Johnson was limping after two minutes after he made the Birmingham striker aware that he returned with a hefty challenge, while Wolves had an early chance but Ebanks-Blake and Doyle hesitated before losing his footing and the chance was gone.
The next chance was from Jonsson who blazed high wide and not very handsome with a shot from the edge of the box.
It was all a bit untidy from both sides during the early stages, with both sides lacking quality in the final third, but at least Wolves were trying to get it down and play, especially down the flanks with the returning Kites down one side and Hunt down the other.
But the most entertaining part of the first 15 minutes came when the ESPN camera picked up a topless (unfortunately male) Wolves fan in the crowd, ironically wearing a scarf while shivering. The commentators didn`t take much prompting to take the Mick and to be honest who could blame them for making up their own entertainment as there wasn`t a huge amount to get excited about on the pitch. In fact Birmingham were now probably having the better of it, but were limited to working the ball down the channels and they didn`t look overly threatening from these positions. It really did feel like two sides just going through the motions.
On 20 minutes the Birmingham fans created the largest cheer of the afternoon to date after Johnson headed the ball over from a Kites corner. Usually this kind of effort wouldn`t make the edit of a match report, but it really was one of the highlights of the game up until this point.
The tackles started to fly in at this stage, Stearman was probably lucky to get away with a card, while Ridgewell should also have been booked for a challenge on Doyle, but referee Mike Dean didn`t even give a free-kick probably hoping to get in at half time with limited notes in his little black book so he can leave the ground as early as possible.
Roger Johnson was in serious pain on the half an hour mark, jumping for a ball with a Birmingham striker and falling down heavily on his right ankle, it looked a bad one, his foot flopped around like it could have been broken or ligament damage and while he got back to his feet to be helped off, the Birmingham fans booed him vociferously. A sad end to his St Andrew`s return and how long will we now be missing him for?
There was a shot on target minutes later, yes a shot on target and it came from Ebanks-Blake, it was a bit of a toe poke and it was saved easily by the goalkeepers feet, but it was the best chance either side had created in 40 minutes of football.
The move seemed to wake Wolves up a bit and after Ebanks-Blake and Doyle linked up a cross over to Kites didn`t quite reach him and Birmingham looked a bit panicky at the back as he chased the ball down. Minutes later it was Doyle`s turn to have a shot, but this was closer to the corner flag than the goal and he quite rightly attempted to hide his face with his shirt after that poor effort.
Birmingham then remembered that they too could shoot the ball towards the goalposts and Redmond had a daisy cutter easily saved by De Vries.
The final five minutes of the first half appeared to be a lot more interesting, it could have also been the fact that I`d finished a couple of beers by this point and been perked up by a few slices of pizza. But my thoughts now were of the next 15 minutes of Rebecca Lowe and hopefully a more interesting second period, I`m always the optimist.
The second half initially looked quite bright with Kites feeding Ebanks-Blake in early, the striker desperately tried to angle his run to stay on-side but Kites delayed too long before releasing the ball and he was immediately flagged offside, but it was at least promising and lively, two things that were lacking during the first half.
While I nipped to the little boys room I was reliably informed that a gold man had a shot on target which went wide…I don`t think I`ll ask him to contribute much more to this report.
Although he did shout handball when a Birmingham player handled inside the box, he also enjoyed the Birmingham fans shouting handball at everything which moved for the next few minutes.
The best chance of the game came on 60 minutes, good play from Foley and Kites created the chance, with Doyle dragging the defenders to the front post Ebanks-Blake was unmarked on the penalty spot and from 12 yards an in-form and match fit Ebanks-Blake would have been the favourite to score, unfortunately he is neither so he blazed over.
As the tannoy announcer told the 14,000 strong crowd what the attendance was (14,000), commentator George Burnley went into a bit of a strange rant about why do they announce the crowd during games? Well isn`t that an interesting question………………………..
Back to the game and Wolves were beginning to look good, especially down the right hand side with Foley and Kites. Ebanks-Blake was doing ok as the target man, holding the ball up and keeping it moving, but he and Doyle were lacking that instinctive knack of finding the net like Steven Fletcher on the bench has shown in recent weeks. Would our Mick introduce him to the match? The game with half an hour was there for the taking. A quick flick to the bench however showed that it was going to be Jarvis who would be the second change of the afternoon for McCarthy.
Before the change though the Birmingham captain Curtis Davies made it into the refs little note book for a foul on Doyle, he was booked and Henry and Hunt stood over the ball. Birmingham built a wall of five or six and Hunt tried a clever little free-kick that was once successful for Matthew Le Tissier for Southampton, something we all then tried to replicate when we were playing, with about as much success as Hunt had.
Jarvo gave Wolves a threat down the left wing, as Birmingham backed off and backed off he kept running was unlucky to not find Doyle at the front post, you could tell that Wolves were beginning to get a hand on the game but you just felt it needed Fletcher and almost on queue the commentators mentioned that he was preparing himself for the final 15 minutes and he replaced Doyle.
To sum up Wolves lack of quality in front of goal, ESPN flashed up a stat for shot accuracy during the first 75 minutes of the game, the answer 18%. It was that bad and the introduction of Fletcher didn`t have the required impact as Birmingham then enjoyed their best period of the game with Wolves struggling to even get out of their own half, not that Birmingham really created anything to suggest that this wasn`t going to a replay.
Both sides huffed during the final few minutes of the game, Jarvis hit the post after a good save from Doyle, but just like the rest of the match, they both drew blanks in what turned out to be a bit of a dud Cup tie.
Hopefully it will be heavily discounted ticket prices for the replay as this wasn`t a great advert to persuade anyone to turn up at Molineux next week.
At least the Pizza was nice.
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