Tuesday 23 January 2018

Cup party time over for Blues

Birmingham 1 West BRom 3

Sandy Macaskill

Carling Cup champions they may be, but Birmingham City were brought back to earth with a bump by West Brom in what was a significant skirmish in the relegation battle.

And while the few shots fired in a first 45 minutes that football forgot were blanks, a riveting second period revealed that Birmingham, and their subdued supporters, had run out of rocket fuel.

Roy Hodgson seemed to have run out of ideas. The West Brom manager's decision to start Marc-Antoine Fortune, a striker low on confidence, was madness but he made up for it by bringing Peter Odemwingie on for the second half. His club's fans will thank him for kick-starting the match.

Fans were jolted out of their torpor by three goals in 11 minutes. The contest woke up after Youssuf Mulumbu scored and though Jean Beausejour levelled for Birmingham, West Brom pulled away with goals from James Morrison and Paul Scharner.

The result takes the gloss off Birmingham's Carling Cup celebrations. They welcome the trophy to St Andrew's with a civic parade today, though who will feel like a party with Alex McLeish's side two points behind West Brom and in the drop zone? They have two games in hand, but McLeish confessed it was a "kick in the teeth" nevertheless.

West Brom supporters crowed in delight when Ben Foster was rushed into an uneasy clearance a minute after half-time. The newly arrived Odemwingie did well to thread the ball to Mulumbu, who smacked it past the Birmingham goalkeeper. Game on.

The home support briefly found their voice when Lee Bowyer burst down the right, his cross met by Beausejour, who used his knee to put the ball beyond Scott Carson.

Steven Reid's ball into the box in the 58th minute was well controlled by Morrison, who flicked the ball past Curtis Davies, pirouetted and volleyed home.

Brunt hit a post and Odemwingie put the rebound over the bar, then Morrison's deep cross found Scharner, who somehow headed past Foster from a tight angle. Hodgson breathed a sigh of relief. "This was a major bridge I had to cross," he said.

Problems are mounting for McLeish, who blamed "schoolboy errors" in defence and a lack of inspiration going forward, accurately describing the performance as "second rate. Wembley was a factor," he added.


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