Sunday, 21 October 2012

Conclusions from St Andrew's

Birmingham City1-1Leicester City
(HT 1-0)
Lovenkrands 45Marshall 86

St Andrew's, attendance: 18,271 (3,752)
BBC Match Report

  • A game of two halves. Birmingham showed in the first half why they are languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship. Playing without confidence they allowed Leicester time on the ball to create opportunities, with only young England goalkeeper and City's woefulness in front of goal to deny the away side a lead at the break. The scandal was that the Foxes were behind at the break, leaving nearly 4,000 travelling City supporters bewildered at half time. That goal changed the shape of the game however, the home side emerging for the second half as a different team to that which contested the first half. A change of shape and tactics saw the Blues pressing a home advantage and only a last-ditch effort from substitute Ben Marshall saw the Foxes rewarded for their first half efforts. On balance, then, a draw was a fair result. But after such a first half performance, Nigel Pearson must be looking on his visit to St Andrew's as two points dropped.
  • Leicester's tastiest encounter so far. Considering the lack of rivalry between these two underachieving Midlands clubs it was surprising that this was such a fraught affair. Not amongst the fans - whose banter was erring on the tame side despite the noisy atmosphere created by the travelling support - was this at it's zenith but on the pitch, with late, hard challenges and an apparent mutual disrespect seeing both captains spoken to by the referee. For Birmingham, a club in near-desperate times, the four yellow cards they received will be taken lightly. For Leicester, high flying and sitting joint-third in the Championship Fair Play league, the bookings issued to Martyn Waghorn and Zac Whitbread will be frowned upon by the club's management who have worked so hard to overturn last season's ill-discipline.
  • A point was just enough. Lady luck continues to smile on Pearson and his team, who could have dropped two points to Cardiff City but instead end the weekend at the top of the Championship league table. The Bluebirds' loss at Nottingham Forest yielded rare cheers to a Forest victory from Foxes' fans as the Trees stole points from City's promotion-chasing rivals.

Danny Drinkwater
This was standout performance from Danny Drinkwater, with the former Manchester United youngster impressing himself on the game and working as a highly effective link between Leicester's defence and attack. Sitting in front of the defence allowed Drinkwater a freedom to roam when in attack but he diligently stuck to his duties when City lost the ball and closed-down attacking players to give the Foxes' defence time and space in which to organise themselves. Drinkwater's awareness will make him a capable, adaptable player: time will tell if he will become a great.

Richie de Laet
This was a very reassuring performance for fans of young Belgian Richie de Laet. He is a player who has polarised opinion since his signing in the summer, with some crediting his attacking pace and others criticising his defensive abilities. Against the Blues, de Laet answered those critics in combining his usual attacking forays with solid defensive skills, effectively nullifying the home team's use of the left wing and preventing them from breaking away.

Andy King
Once again the stock of City's Welsh international has risen. Andy King was a dominant presence in the heart of the Leicester midfield and would have scored a late winner if he had not scooped his shot over the bar.

Zak Whitbread
Assured and confident, Zak Whitbread proved his talents at Norwich City and is turning a corner in royal blue. If he can continue this form, the Foxes' defence will be one to fear.

The Blue Army

Anthony Knockaert
Rather less than dazzling away from home, Birmingham's tactic of bullying the skilled midfielder off the ball seemed to work. Certainly, Anthony Knockaert had less ability to penetrate the Birmingham defence than he has in earlier matches.

Lloyd Dyer
Like Knockaert on the opposite wing, Lloyd Dyer was bullied out of the game by the home side and was unable to create - or finish - many chances during the game. Dyer, like Martyn Waghorn, was guilty too often of falling for the offside trap and so his pace was not as effective as it might have been.

Martyn Waghorn
This was the day Waghorn would return to form. Presented will a ball on a plate in front of the travelling support, the striker could only score one-on-one with Brummie keeper Jack Butland. Somehow, he put the ball over. Waghorn's barren spell continues.

Pie Report - A new, occasional feature detailing the away day experience.
Away fans are housed in the large lower half of a two-tier stand at one end of the pitch. Oddly, away fans enter the ground through turnstiles apparently built in the middle of a car park, before descending underneath the stand and climbing a flight of stairs to the concourse, which would overlook the pitch from 1-15 rows up if not for the large barriers blocking the view for legal reasons. Not just in that respect is the ground highly unusual, with new areas crudely bolted-on to the existing structures, one of which (the main stand) is original.

The chicken curry pie sampled at St Andrew's was of creamy, crisp pastry and filled with chunky meaty filling. A rare contender, then, to that tried at Molyneux earlier in the season, which was embossed with the Wolverhampton Wanderers' club crest. This pie more than made up for that gimmick (sadly no stamped logo here) in it's quality. The same cannot be said of the flat, ill-tasting John Smith's (supposedly Smoothflow) bitter sampled at Birmingham. In future, try a pub for a drink before savouring a pie once arriving at the ground.

Conclusions will return on Saturday - there will be very limited coverage of the Foxes' home game against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday evening due to the half term holiday.
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