BIRMINGHAM 1 TOWN 2
Town record first away league win in seven
The Terriers’ midfield duo of Adam Clayton and Oliver Norwood netted as Birmingham were condemned to their 11th straight home defeat in the Championship.
Norwood fired Town into an early lead with a powerful close range finish after good work from Danny Ward. The same man was also the provider of Town’s second with a neat pass to Adam Clayton who slammed the ball home from 25 yards.
Birmingham offered little in attack all game with Alex Smithies’ main duties being to collect deep crosses. Chris Burke had the Blues’ only real shot of note before substitute Olly Lee made the scoreline a little easier to read with a 94th minute volley.
The statistics suggested that this was always going to be a tight encounter – and that is the way that it proved.
Birmingham had won just twice on home soil in the league this season, while Town’s nine away defeats is a joint high in the Championship.
The Blues started arguably the brighter with former Terrier Lee Novak finding space well alongside Federico Macheda, but on two occasions inside the first two minutes he was flagged offside.
Anthony Gerrard isn’t renowned for his speed, but in the fifth minute he displayed a quick burst of pace and an excellent slide tackle to deny Chris Burke who had been put clear by Joel Lynch.
Despite improving reports, James Vaughan was deemed unfit for the clash and once again Danny Ward took his pLace. The attacker found space well during the opening exchanges and had Town’s first sight of goal with a low drive.
His contribution was even greater three minutes later when he laid on the assist for the opening goal.
Adam Clayton found Ward who spun and supplied Oliver Norwood with a chipped pass. The midfielder was under heavy pressure, but his first touch took him away from Reece Brown and he proceeded in smashing the ball past Darren Randolph.
It was almost two in the 16th minute when Nahki Wells tried an innovative flick from close range, but Randolph displayed good reactions to keep the ball out.
The Blues’ top assist maker for the season Chris Burke was their biggest threat during the first 45.
His deep cross found the head of Tom Adeyemi, but the former Norwich man couldn’t direct his header on target. The Scotsman took matters into his own hands seven minutes from the interval with an effort that was curling into Alex Smithies far top corner, but the Academy graduate was equal to it and leapt well to alleviate the danger.
With half time approaching it was Town who carried the greater threat. Randolph showed good alertness to gather Wells’ snapshot before goalscorer Norwood sliced wide from 30 yards.
Peter Clarke made his return to action during the interval against the side he ironically suffered his knee injury against October.
The defender replaced Joel Lynch, who was believed to be injured, as Town reverted to four at the back.
Emyr Huws was the first player from either side to have a shot in anger during the second half; his 55th minute strike was straight at Smithies.
It was the second shot of the half which was to prove vital for Town though. Ward’s neat pass found Clayton in the centre of the pitch whose step took him past Olly Lee, and with his second touch he hit a swerving shot past the flat footed Randolph to double the Terriers’ advantage.
Despite bringing on the strike partnership of Nikola Zigic and Peter Lovenkrands, Lee Clark’s men very rarely threatened Smithies’ goal and it was Town who looked the more likely to score.
Paul Dixon hit over speculative effort, while Ward went a little closer on his weaker right foot after a great touch and turn past Paul Caddis.
Huws' low, miss hit shot in the 90th minute was greeted with ironic cheers from the home crowd and looked set to sum up a dismal afternoon for the Blues. It did get a little better for them though, substitute Olly Lee grabbed a consolation with virtually the last kick of the game.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies (c); Joel Lynch (Peter Clarke, 46), Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke; Paul Dixon, Jonathan Hogg, Adam Clayton, Oliver Norwood (Keith Southern, 86), Adam Hammill; Danny Ward, Nahki Wells (Sean Scannell, 88)
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Joe Lolley, Martin Paterson
Bookings Town: Adam Clayton 14, Alex Smithies 43, Oliver Norwood 62, Paul Dixon 75