Writer: St Andrew
Date:Sunday December 13 2009
Whilst eagerly awaiting kick off yesterday, I was sat in my seat looking at the Christmas card I was handed as I walked through the turnstiles. A Christmas-esque Blues badge emblazoned on the front, signatures of the players and staff on the inside… A nice keepsake, but a little under whelming.
There was even Beau Brummie going along the edge of the pitch blasting blue Santa hats to the crowd with 'Merry Christmas Everyone` coming over the tannoy system. Three hats per cannon blast wasn`t exactly the most generous and left me sitting there thinking that maybe it was all just a little bit cheesy. Still, it didn`t stop me being disappointed as Beau went past and I found myself distinctly hatless.
My little brother would have loved that hat.
Then we had Santa lowering himself from the roof of the Kop stand showing of his new swanky blue suit. Again, I felt it was little cheesy, but at least Santa made it in one piece. Lest we forget the Villa`s attempt against Arsenal a few years back.
I am a bit of a grinch when it comes to Christmas so maybe it was just me who was a little under whelmed at the club`s attempt to drum up some Christmas cheer. I know there were a lot of kids around me who were well into the moment.
I`m no kid though, I just wanted the football to hurry up and kick off.
And kick off it did.
The travelling support did their best to get behind their team with an early rendition of 'Forever blowing bubbles` but when met head on with a deafening rendition of 'Keep Right On,` it seemed clear right from the off, the West Ham faithful wouldn`t have much air time.
Forgive my waffling though, I`ll get on with it…
The game kicked off and Blues started well. They forced Zola`s men onto the back foot and earned a few corners to put the Hammers on the back foot.
I`d like to try and pad out the first half but it just seemed much of the same throughout the opening 45 minutes. Blues dominated the proceedings, maintaining possession well but struggled to do anything in the final third. The answer seemed to be to pass the ball well whilst going over the half way line and then loft the ball over the top for Benitez to get under and fight for.
Still it was better than what West Ham could offer. Their policy was to try and pass the ball through but were consistently being met by a tough Birmingham defence. Their advances were few and far between as Blues continued to dominate the first half. Carr & McFadden shone with the sheer effort and tireless performances that we`ve come to expect from the two of them but there was little to get excited about from what we`d seen so far. We were dominating yes, but the best two chances of the half came at the start and the finish.
Roger Johnson did well to meet a Larsson corner with a back heel that Robert Green did well to push away, and then at the end of the game Liam Ridgewell crossed only for an unmarked Cameron Jerome to send a header well over the half.
Even with little of note going on, on the pitch, the home support were firmly behind the team and the team had put the opposition firmly behind the ball. They broke away on the counter attack once or twice but rarely threatened.
As I went to get my half time pie, I couldn`t help thinking that if there was to be a winner then it was only going to be the Blues.
And so it was to be. Early into the second half after confusion between Stanislas & Noble, the ball was given to Jerome, which was given to Benitez. Benitez played a pass through the box that ended at the feet of just the man you would want 10 yards from goal.
Three of Blue`s last four games have ended 1-0 with Lee Bowyer the man to provide such vital goals.
And the man was there once again to slot the ball past a helpless Robert Green to score against his former employers. What a moment for Bowyer, and thoroughly deserved for Blues after the way the game had gone.
West Ham improved though as Kieron Dyer was introduced in the 68th minute. The Englishman replaced the ineffective Kovac. Dyer set out his intentions early as he cannoned a shot off the inside of the far post and for the first time, REALLY gave Blues something to think about.
Noble then saw the end of his 100th league appearance for West Ham as he saw a second yellow card for a challenge on Benitez. Maybe it was a bit harsh on Noble as neither card was for anything to excessive. But by letter of the law, he had to go.
Diamanti showed what all his team mates must have been feeling after seeing another free kick curl agonizingly over the bar, and ripped his shirt to further illustrate that point.
I thought from that moment Blues would go on to increase their lead with the extra man. West Ham were frustrated and Blues were continuing to dominate.
Liam Ridgewell made himself candidate for miss of the season as he fluffed a shot from just 2 yards out. Cameron Jerome benefited from a Julien Faubert`s slip to put him one on one with the keeper, but the striker but the ball wide of the post.
The miss could have been more costly as West Ham really rallied towards the end of the second half putting Blues, for the first time in the game, under some consistent pressure. Resilient defending and some fantastic blocks from the defence did just enough to seal the three points.
A win saw Blues match a club record fourth consecutive fourth Premier League wins and lifted them to the lofty heights of 8th in the league table and on joint points with 7th placed Liverpool.
It wasn`t the most attractive of wins by any means. But it was a very important win for McLeish as they now prepare to face Blackburn in another home game on Tuesday night.
If the fans can do another tremendous job of getting behind the team, then another win on Tuesday may well be the catalyst for Blues to push on through the Christmas period and see if they can improve the squad in January, then who knows what could happen come the end of the season.
For now though, I`m delighted with the effort of the Blues team and the win put me more in the mood for Christmas than any of the pre-match antics.
A win on Tuesday could well leave me with a major case of hangover and heaven forbid, looking forward to Christmas?
Date:Sunday December 13 2009
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