REPORT: TOWN 1-1 BIRMINGHAM CITYA first goal in over seven months from Joel Lynch gave Town a share of the spoils in the annual Town Foundation game at the John Smith’s Stadium.
With the Terriers sporting a one-off magenta and white striped shirt in honour of the Club’s charity, it was fitting that the defender – a big supporter of the Foundation – netted an equaliser to give his side a share of the spoils that it deserved.
Gary Rowett’s side arrived at the John Smith’s Stadium with the Sky Bet Championship’s second best defensive record and you could see why on the evidence of the first 45 minutes.
The Blues got everyone behind the ball and didn’t engage the Terriers until they reached their half, at which point they tried to compress the spaces as much as possible.
Despite this, the likes of Lolley, van La Parra and particularly Jamie Paterson worked hard to find pockets between the Birmingham defensive and midfield lines and the best chances of the half fell Town’s way.
Lolley fired wide from just over 20 yards out after five minutes
Birmingham, rather surprisingly with top scorer Clayton Donaldson on the wing and Kyle Lafferty up front, forced Jed Steer into one save in the first half, with midfielder David Davis driving a half-cleared free kick towards goal and forcing the ‘keeper to push the ball away.
Nahki Wells drove a couple of shots from range wide after dropping deep to pick up the ball, but the biggest chance of the half came from a Town corner. Lolley’s near post delivery was flicked on by Lynch into the path of one-time Birmingham loanee Emyr Huws, who found the target from a narrow angle and made goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak push the ball away.
The main threat looked to be attacking midfielder Diego Fabbrini, whose quick feet and turn of pace earned bookings for Jamie Paterson and Dean Whitehead.
Birmingham started to press the Terriers a little higher in the second half, which gave the home players a little more space to operate in.
Morrison almost scored an own goal from Wells’ 54th minute cross, turning the ball inches wide of the near post, before Wagner made a double change – with Matmour and Bunn replacing van La Parra and Paterson.
Driven on by the excellent Emyr Huws and with Matmour once again making an impact from the bench, Town continued to dominate the ball and probe for the opening goal.
Lolley sent two shots from the right side flying over the bar in quick succession before Morrison did just enough to bundle the ball off Wells after Bunn’s disguised reverse pass.
Then, just like last year, David Cotterill made Town pay from a free kick. Whitehead brought down substitute Will Buckley on the edge of the box and the Welshman stepped forward to hammer a pure strike past Jed Steer’s left side; the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
That goal looked to give Birmingham the winning advantage as Town’s measured passing wasn’t quick enough to break down the massed numbers – but then Lynch came up with the equaliser eight minutes from time.
After a corner was half cleared, Town’s final sub Sean Scannell turned onto his left to shoot. As was the case all afternoon, the effort was blocked – but this time the ball fell to Lynch, who instinctively guided the ball past the diving goalkeeper with his second touch.
That gave Town an injection of pace and they twice went close to a winner.
First, Algerian international Matmour beat right back Caddis with a neat turn and sent a low cross into the danger zone with the outside of his right boot that narrowly evaded Bunn in the area.
Then he went even closer, forcing Kuszczak into the best save of the match with the final meaningful action. Another corner delivery was headed up in the air and Matmour, slightly to the left of goal, produced an overhead kick that looked destined for the top corner – only for the ‘keeper to athletically push the ball away.
Town’s team vs Birmingham City (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Kyle Dempsey; Emyr Huws, Dean Whitehead; Rajiv van La Parra (Harry Bunn, 57), Jamie Paterson (Karim Matmour, 57), Joe Lolley (Sean Scannell, 74); Nahki Wells
Lloyd Allinson, Tommy Smith, Martin Cranie, Flo Bojaj
Jamie Paterson (26); Dean Whitehead (38)