Blues v Rams report
9th March 2007
Vine`s strike wins it for Blues
Rowan Vine's superb finish in first half stoppage-time settled a tight encounter between the two leaders from the Coca-Cola Championship. The 1-0 victory saw Birmingham leap-frog Derby and move to the top of the league.
Billy Davies made three changes to the starting line-up from the 2-1 victory at Norwich City on Tuesday. Tyrone Mears came in to right-back, ahead of Marc Edworthy, while Gary Teale replaced Craig Fagan in midfield. The third change was more surprising Arturo Lupoli dropping to the bench and he was replaced by Jon Macken, who was making only his second Derby County start.
There was drama before the game, with the Rams boss lodged a complaint with match referee Steve Bennett over the state of the St Andrews turf.
Davies felt that the playing surface was a danger to player safety and wanted to get his feelings known to Bennett ahead of the game. But his comments fell on deaf ears and the official said that the pitch was fit to be played on.
It was an even opening, with the Rams looking to attack their hosts. The pitch looked shocking, but as they say it`s the same for both teams. The Rams threatened first Giles 25-yard shot was saved by Colin Doyle at the second attempt.
The Rams looked confident and the huge following from Pride Park got behind their chargers, but the home side hit back. Gary McSheffrey was in on goal after a Mears slip inside the box, but Stephen Bywater was alert to save
Derby continued to take the game to the Blues and on 10 minutes Macken crossed to Barnes on the edge of the box, but he fired wide. The game was living up to the tag of the 'Game of the Season` with chances at both ends, Nicklas Bendtner was sent clear by a long kick by Doyle, that Bywater brilliantly turned away with his legs as he dived in the other direction, and Steve Howard headed just over the bar from a Fagan cross.
The home side settled after the early Rams pressure and began to open up the Rams backline. McSheffrey curled a shot from long-range just wide and the former Coventry City striker did well moments later his free kick was headed back across goal but the Blues players weren`t on the same wavelength and the chance was lost.
The Rams pressed late in the half and Doyle had to be alert to save a David Jones strike, but in first half injury time the home side was ahead. Vine, signed from Luton town this season, collected Mat Sadler's pass and he turned Dean Leacock on the edge of the box before firing wide of Bywater to give the home side the lead at the break.
The second half was a slog with chances few and far between, and again the pitch had a lot to do with that. Barnes` pace still caused the Blues defence problems but he faded late, and the home defence held firm with Martin Taylor outstanding at the heart.
The Rams forced a number of consecutive corners midway through the half but couldn`t find the target. The Rams pressed and had a penalty claim turned down by referee Bennett in the 67th minute, Bisgaard went down under challenge from Mat Sadler, but he was un-moved and waved away the Rams protests.
The Game took another turn in the 72nd minute when McSheffrey was shown a straight red card for a two footed tackle on Dean Leacock. The ref had no choice and his decision was further backed up by TV replays.
The Rams pressed late but they couldn`t find the break through, Howard should have done better, when he was found by Jones but the big striker fired high over the bar.
With the Rams pushing men forward, the Blues almost made it 2-0 with Jerome fired wide from long-range.
The referee`s assistant flashed four minutes stoppage-time, which was greeted with cheers from the Rams fans, but even though the Rams pressed intensively the Blues were never really threaten, and at the final whistle it was Steve Bruce`s side who moved back to the top of the league.
Birmingham City - GK Doyle, Muamba, Kelly, McSheffrey, Sadler, Clemence, Martin Taylor, Larsson, Vine, N'Gotty, Bendtner
Subs - Maik Taylor (GK), Nafti, Johnson, Forssell, Jerome
Derby County - GK Bywater, Mears, Leacock, Moore, McEveley, Teale, Barnes, Oakley, Jones, Macken (Bisgaard 52), Howard
Subs - Edworthy, Lupoli, Grant, Peschisolido
Referee -Steve Bennett
Jay McEverly - A great game from the former Blackburn Rovers defender. He looked solid at the back and looked good going forward.
He conceded after Friday night's single goal defeat at Birmingham that the home side adapted better to the dodgy pitch.
He said: "We were naive tonight because instead of banging balls into the box like they did we tried to play it.
'Teams that come to St Andrew's are going to have to change their game to cope with the pitch, especially teams like us that have a lot of ball players. It is a lesson to players like Jones who like to run with the ball. You simply have to play differently at places like this.
"Three games in a week was a big ask and with the pitch being as heavy as it was, two extra days' extra recovery from their last game for Birmingham was definitely a factor."
"We are still delighted to be where we are in the league," he added. "We would have been delighted to have taken a point from Norwich and Birmingham, so three is a bonus. There are still nine matches remaining and everything to play for.'
He said: 'In the big scheme of things we are delighted to win but there are still 10 games to go.
'In this division anybody can beat anybody but we have given ourselves a great chance.
'We have been resilient over the past month or so. We're in pole position and cannot ask for any more than that.'