At half time I bet most of us were thinking along the lines of *this is muddy awful* as City seemed second best in just about every duel and but for a sublime finish from Teemu Pukki we showed none of our usual class or rhythm.
Pukki’s penalty was anything but sublime or classy and the game-killing moment vanished off the outstretched shin of Blues keeper Neil Etheridge. Worse was very shortly to follow.
A disastrous, over-hit ball from Tim Krul to Zimbo. The latter proceeded to suffer a touch of the vapours and coughed up possession and although Krul pushed out the shot from Ivan Sanchez, the Spaniard was quicker to respond than a static Grant Hanley and gleefully tucked away the rebound.
If Birmingham had been able to finish without blasting two or three clear-cut chances over the bar we could have been in trouble. And I mean real trouble as the Blues’ consistent high press on that $hitty pitch was really getting to us. I was so relieved we went in level at the break although if I’m honest we didn’t really deserve to.
Maybe we weren’t expecting Brum to be on the front foot from the kick off but we sure didn’t deal with it very well. So what exactly did Daniel Farke say to the lads at half time? We’ll never know. I only know four German swearwords but I wouldn’t be surprised if each and every one of them was employed – perhaps with several more I don’t know.
Whatever he said, the rakete was well and truly sent up the collective arschloc and we re-emerged with considerably more fight in the second period.
It looked liked ending at 1-1 until Farke played a masterstroke by bringing on Onel Hernandez for the ineffectual Mario Vrancic. Onel gave Birmingham something else to think about and a strong run and pass inside to Emi Buendia provided the game-changer.
Emi’s shot bobbled off Harlee Dean and who was sniffing? Pukki of course and the chance was put away. Memo to Blues’ keeper Etheridge: it cannot be offside when the ball comes off your own player.
There were a few hairy moments after that but we seemed to have adapted to the surface more and more as the game went on and although it distorted the reality of the scoreline it was a *muddy marvellous* moment.
Hernandez looked bemused when he was replaced by Jordan Hugill just before the 90 was up but then we saw the benefit of Farke’s decision when the muscular presence of Jordan Hugill headed clear to trigger what Gary described yesterday as *the Charge of the Light Brigade* wherein Lukas Rupp picked up on a horrendous aerial gaffe by Mikel San Jose to race the remaining length of the pitch with the ball, Jordan Hugill and Ollie Skipp alongside him.
The unselfish Rupp shaped to shoot but instead laid it off to Skipp who scored his first goal for us with the simplest of tap-ins. Ollie himself later joked that it was his first senior goal in professional football – how true that is I don’t know.
Sure the scoreline flattered us but a win is a win is a win.
Farke himself said afterwards:
“I wanted some steel. I have to say what they delivered in the second half was outstanding. We were all over them. They were still dangerous on the counters but we controlled them, played in their half and could have scored a few more.
“To have this mentality and to find a gear within the game shows our winning mentality. I am pretty proud of that second half and the result.”
There ain’t no arguing with that.
My major gripe from the game? That BCFC home kit reminded me of old skool 1p5wich!
My major positive? We’ve won 10 games away from home already this season and every time we’ve done that since 2003 we’ve been promoted. Food for optimism.
A secondary positive? We’ve escaped from St Andrew’s twice in ten days or so without picking up any injuries courtesy of the pitch.
Finally it was such a joy to see and hear [partially] our players and coaching team as they went down the tunnel at full time. The spirit was immense and plain to see.
Bring on Gareth Ainsworth’s no-star rock ‘n’ roll band on Sunday.
**This article is dedicated to my old friend and workmate Ken Stringer, devoted Evertonian and all-round good guy, who passed away very recently. . Condolences to Ken’s son Sean [who kindly helped me out with last season’s MFW Everton preview] and all the Stringer clan.