BIRMINGHAM 1 TOWN 1
The Terriers fought back from a goal down to secure a point at Birmingham City this afternoon, but might feel they created enough during the 90 minutes to win the game.
The draw halted a three game losing streak for Chris Powell’s side and was the least that a much improved performance deserved.
After David Cotterill had given the hosts an early lead, it was former Birmingham City trainee Joe Lolley who quickly restored parity with his first League goal of the season on just his second start in front of his family, who are season ticket holders at St. Andrew’s.
After a poor first-half display, Birmingham improved and worked Town’s defence much harder in the second period in what was an entertaining encounter with chances for both sides.
Despite being the out of form side against a team that came into the game on the back of successive wins, the Terriers made a very bright start – passing the ball through the three man midfield as well as they have done in weeks.
As such, it was no surprise to see the first chance come Town’s way. Centre back Jonathan Spector’s defensive header fell to Jacob Butterfield’s feet and his first-time forward pass set James Vaughan into space. Charging at Spector, he entered the area and made space for the shot – but shanked it wide of the near post on his weaker left foot.
It was all Town in the early running – but then Birmingham scored with their first genuine chance of the game. It felt too easy from a Town perspective as Captain Paul Caddis overlapped from his right back position and pulled the ball back towards the penalty spot, where David Cotterill – scorer against Town in the previous meeting between the two sides at the John Smith’s Stadium – collected. His first touch was excellent, side-stepping the last defender, and his low drive from the angle had just enough on it to beat Alex Smithies despite Town’s number one getting a touch on the ball.
Despite the setback, Chris Powell’s side remained on the front foot. First Butterfield struck a 20 yard drive straight at goalkeeper Darren Randolph after a neat one-two opened up space before Lolley side-stepped left back Jonathan Grounds to drive infield, only to blast wildly wide from range.
Harry Bunn had replaced Sean Scannell in the starting line-up, but ‘Scanz’ was introduced for Bunn through injury in the 21st minute – and had a golden opportunity to equalise within 30 seconds. Tommy Smith’s low ball across the face of goal, but at the back post Scannell – slightly off balance – fired wide from only seven yards out.
At the other end Smithies had to save a powerful header from midfielder Robert Tesche, but Town soon got the equaliser their play deserved in the 27th minute.
A typically powerful drive forward from Scannell got his side up the pitch and won a deep throw-in. That gave Jack Robinson the chance to launch the ball into the area and the length he got on his delivery seemed to catch Birmingham off guard. When the ball dropped at the back post, the defenders hesitated – allowing Joe Lolley to surge forward and gleefully plant a volley past Randolph from close range.
Smithies had to be alert to stop the home side retaking the lead just after the half-hour mark, smartly turning Andrew Shinnie’s header around the post after Demarai Gray had been given too much space to deliver a cross by Robinson.
Normal service was soon resumed, though, as no Town player could turn home Butterfield’s cross-come-shot into the net.
Town had another great opportunity to take the lead in the final minute of the two added at the end of the first-half. Vaughan’s industry won a left-sided corner and when Butterfield delivered to the near post, Joel Lynch rose highest to head towards goal. Unfortunately for the travelling fans at the opposite side of the ground, Randolph got a strong left hand to the effort – diverting it to safety.
Birmingham’s performance improved in the second-half and the hosts enjoyed a good spell.
First Smithies had to be alert to push Caddis’ 66th minute free-kick behind after Butterfield had clumsily jumped into Gray on the edge of the D.
Then Blues substitute Wes Thomas missed a golden opportunity with 20 minutes left. Caddis’ excellent pass set Tesche free into the channel and his pull-back was perfect for the striker, but he inexplicably scuffed his effort, allowing Hudson to nip in and clear.
With Gary Rowett’s side in the ascendancy, Powell made a switch – bringing on Oscar Gobern for Lolley and switching the shape a little, giving Butterfield and Scannell license to roam. The change bared fruit, with Town coming back into it; midfield runs from the likes of Butterfield and Coady proving hard to track.
However, the best effort Town could muster - aside from a number of balls across the face of goal - was a Butterfield volley that was saved by Randolph at his near post.
Town’s team (4-5-1):
Alex Smithies; Jack Robinson (Murray Wallace, 90), Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Harry Bunn (Sean Scannell, 21), Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady, Jonathan Hogg, Joe Lolley (Oscar Gobern, 76); James Vaughan
Joe Murphy, Ishmael Miller, Jake Carroll, Radoslaw Majewski
Conor Coady (9); Jack Robinson (16)