BIRMINGHAM CITY 3-2 COVENTRY CITY BY KEV MONKS
Date 29/01/11 At St Andrews
Coventry City went out of the FA Cup after a 3-2 Fourth Round defeat at Birmingham City.
There might not have been much cup fever for our Third Round tie against Crystal Palace but the Fourth Round draw sparked the imagination of the City supporters and the Sky Blues could have taken a lot more than the 6,000 official allocation which included City supporters from as far away as Australia.
Cars, buses, trains and coaches were packed as the Sky Blue Army headed into B9 hoping that the Sky Blues could put behind them their lack of league form and go on a much needed run.
Unfortunately, for Birmingham, this was not a true Cup tie. With Bluenose minds fixed on getting tickets for the League Cup Final, only ten thousand Brummies, plus a few Cov were in the home areas to see Alex McLeish name a side that had nine changes from the one that had beaten West Ham on Wednesday and was one not far off that had played in their last reserve game.
City Boss Aidy Boothroyd, was forced to shuffle his pack very late on, when Sammy Clingan who was coming in for the departed Michael Doyle, tweaked a media ligament in training and decided to bring in seventeen year old Coundon lad Conor Thomas.
The noise from the City fans and the Brummies who applauded the return of Gary McSheffrey to St Andrews was at a good level as the match kicked off on a cold afternoon.
David Bentley who joined Birmingham a few weeks ago from Spurs was in the Birmingham side and he made the most of Carl Baker losing the ball to supply a cross for the giant that is Nikola Zigic to head wide after ninety seconds.
Then in the ninth minute, another cross came in and Kevin Phillips got in a header which Keiren Westwood, whom we all hope won't be leaving on Monday, pushed onto the bar.
Suddenly, the Coventry players seem to click. King forced a save out of former City loanee Colin Doyle and in the tenth minute, he was sent on his way. MARLON KING made a powerful run and then hit a terrific low left footed drive into the bottom corner of the net.
The City fans went wild including some who were forced to get tickets in the home areas and the Police, who I found to be friendly and decent, had to escort some Sky Blues into the away end for their own protection.
City, who are making a board announcement on Monday, were working the ball around well with full backs Richard Keogh and Stephen O'Halloran able to push up to support the midfield which has being admirably led by Aron Gunnarsson.
Phillips won two corners before McSheffrey did the same. A third corner for the Sky Blues followed in the 25th minute and this time, RICHARD WOOD rose unchallenged to head into the net from about eight yards out.
The City supporters were living the dream, 2-0 up at a Premier League club and the smiles amongst a jubilant support were there to see.
Unfortunately, it was not to last as DAVID BENTLEY was not tackled by Thomas and he had space and time, some twenty yards out to strike a cracking 35th minute shot which looped over the helpless Keiren Westwood and into the net.
"It's going to be a long half" was a phase being loudly mentioned by some City supporters behind me as the Brum fans reminded us about their Wembley trip and the second half got underway.
Whether the City players thought all they had to, was to hold Birmingham for forty five minutes, I don't know. But it was Birmingham who attacked their Kop End for the second half, came at the Sky Blues.
In a second half performance which showed why City are in the league position they are and why they need proper investors rather than a Commercial man on the board to ensure that the loan players that
Aidy Boothroyd is seeking are the sort that mega bucks Leicester would chase rather players on cheap wages like Freddie Sears last season,
Alexander Hleb started to boss the game whilst Conor Thomas was forced to play give and go.
City stopped tackling and doing the good things they had been doing in the first half, giving Birmingham free range to attack and in the 66th minute, the City defenders failed to stop the cross and STUART PARNABY picked his spot to put the home side level.
Five minutes later, Westwood made a super save from Phillips and then pushed the resulting corner over for another. Poor marking left KEVIN PHILLIPS at the back and a good finish meant it was 3-2 Birmingham, sinking our hopes of getting something from the tie.
With Clive Platt ineffective, there had been plenty of calls from the City support to bring on Freddy Eastwood and with just less than ten minutes to go, Boothroyd finally made the change replacing Platt and Thomas for Eastwood and Cameron who went in at centre-half with Martin Cranie moving into midfield.
City's crossing was nothing more than banging balls into the box, hoping that Marlon King would get on the end of them but the Blues defence had it sussed and were able to clear any danger.
The only time they failed to stop King was four minutes from time when the City striker's shot on the turn was easily saved by Doyle who had been a virtual spectator for the second half bar a couple of routine crosses.
Lacking any desire to get back in the match even in the four minutes of stoppage time, meant that this cancer of when City take a big away following they get beat, continued yet again.