A dominant Birmingham City side inflicted Martin O’Neill’s first lost against the blues in his last 6 games, with goals from Jota and Che Adams. Forrest have now failed to win back to back games since last September, whilst Birmingham moving up to eight.
Blues fans were happy to see February the 1st come around, signalling the end of the January transfer window and the speculation surrounding top scorer Che Adams leaving the club. Even though the last time these two met we were entertained two a 2-2 goal fest, coming into this match there had only been 5 goals in the last 5 games between these two sides at St Andrews.
With three of Forrest’s new signings on the team sheet today, it was always going to be interesting to see how they would deal with a Birmingham side who had won two out of their last four at home, and before that were unbeaten in fifteen at home.
The early few minutes of the match saw both teams looking to attack, with plenty of shots at either end and no team looking to control possession. An offensive style was to be expected from the Blues, with manager Garry Monk setting out his midfield as a diamond formation, with Jota leading the midfield four.
After an early chance by Forrest winger Lolley hit the post, the home side took the lead through Jota in the 13th minute. A bouncing ball was played up to Che Adams, who knocked it on to Jota. The playmaker used the bounce of the ball to loft it over the trailing defender and bury it across goal. His stunning volley stirred the crowd into life, who to their credit kept an intimidating atmosphere up for the rest of the game there after.
The remainder of the first half saw the game settle down a bit, City happy with their lead and no side wanting to concede next. Plenty of tough challenges flew in from both sides.
The half ended with Birmingham’s formation getting the better of Forrest’s midfield pairing of Ben Watson and Adlene Guedioura, with only Watson sitting back when Birmingham broke.
A good game full of end-to-end attacking play continued after both teams came back out for the second half, with Birmingham remaining the stronger of the two sides.
It was not until the 60th minute however did we find both teams going at it once again, hammer and tong, like they did in the game’s first ten or so minutes.
Adams impressed up top, with the two man strike force working well, one of the two keeping the defenders occupied whilst the other dropped back to pick the ball up, resulting in the formation of an overlap in Birmingham’s favour.
The final 20 minutes were polar opposite to the rest of the match, with the Blues beginning to drop deeper, and Forrest really putting the pressure on offensively.
Chances were becoming more regular now for Forrest, with their best chance falling to the away side’s winger Lolley, who had been by far their best player. He attempted a scissor kick that beat the keeper, but wide just of the post.
It was not until added time that City’s victory was set in stone. Late drama occurred when substitute Birmingham striker Vassell had his heels clipped in the opposition box, taking him to the ground, and before the ref could blow his whistle, Adams took a shot, only for the ball to be saved by defender Guedioura’s arm. Red card for him and penalty awarded to Birmingham. Adams took the ball, and slotted away his 16th of the season, with the game ending shortly after, 2-0 to the home side.
Man of the match would have to go to Birmingham’s holding midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld, who controlled the centre of the park, something Ben Watson struggled to do for most of the match. With that win Birmingham go up to 8th and above Forrest in the table, facing Queens Park Rangers next week.
In his post match intervie, Garry Monk expressed his happiness with the “fantastic response” of his team aftertheir 3-3 draw with Swansea on Tuesday night. Jota scored his second goal of the season after playing in what Monk called an “advanced position” which they had worked on in training. This strategy was “for this game particularly” and clearly worked to great effect.
Monk spoke also about Che Adams, who had been the subject of much speculation during the January transfer window. Adam’s contributed to the victory with his 16th goal of the season in the final minute of the game, and the striker’s celebration made it clear he is at Birmingham to stay. Monk confirmed this, saying “He is fully committed, I’ve said it all along”, and claiming that he had seen “no change whatsoever” in Adam’s demeanour despite the interest from other clubs. The Blues boss went on to say that “It showed his maturity, not just as a person but as a player as well”, piling more praise upon their top scorer.
Typically, the Englishman rejected any ideas about playoff positions, claiming that histeam had recently been on “just a good run of games”, but went on to say that the “Lads are doing fantastic. They showed that we could really compete”. This game moved City up to 8thin the table, just 4 points off a playoff spot. Indeed, Monk’s team look like strong contenders for the playoffs this season.
By contrast, Martin O’Neill was understandably abject following their 2-0 defeat to City. He described the performance as “fine”, claiming they “started off brightly” but have “obviously lots of work to do”.
“I didn’t think we were going to lose it, I thought we were going to get the equaliser.” O’Neill finished by explaining that at the moment he and Roy Keane are trying to “find out as much as they can” about their players “without losing ground”. Due to their three new signings, the Irishman explained that they “haven’t developed a proper style of play”, but are working hard to develop this in the coming games.
Birmingham face QPR away next, whilst Forrest are hosting Brentford at the City Ground.
By Alec Knowles and Jake Davies
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