Birmingham City 1 – 1 Aston Villa
There’s something achingly familiar about the scenario: take the lead, drop the points. And yet, this time I’m quite happy with the outcome. It was a good point to take, particularly as the match turned out.
Birmingham were quicker out of the blocks but for all their domination of possession, created very little. But their one effort on target provoked genuine concern. Until his dying day Donaldson will never know how he hit the underside of the bar and goalkeeper from point blank range.
The assistant referee, in front of the home supporters, showed strong character to correctly rule that the whole of the ball hadn’t crossed the line. He’d probably prefer goal-line technology were present to make the decision for him but in its absence, it was reassuring to find one official who doesn’t need to go to Specsavers.
And then Villa punished them. An outstanding Jordan Ayew free kick was met with an exquisite looping, curling header from Gary Gardner. It was in the minute he connected with the ball, the trajectory a thing of sheer beauty, made all the more delicious by the blood-curdling despair it induced in the home support. They couldn’t believe their side was trailing whilst for a minute, we dared to dream.
For the rest of the half, the match reverted to the previous half an hour. Birmingham had the ball, we looked comfortable defending the lead. They were devoid of attacking ideas; plenty of intent and endeavour but nothing of note. Whatever Gary Rowett said at half-time, Birmingham were inspired or at the very least, fired up.
On the back foot, Villa contributed to their own problems. As per usual. Hutton sold Gollini short, Maghoma nipped in threatened to score but the Italian recovered to stave off the problem, with a bit of help from his friends.
There was an air of inevitability about the equaliser when it came. You can’t play a rearguard action for the whole of the second half and not expect to concede chances. Kodjia was increasingly isolated throughout the 45 minutes but with twenty minutes of normal time remaining, Davis’ shot deflected off Jedinak’s leg past Gollini. Unsighted by the deflection, the Italian couldn’t react to the change in the ball’s course.
The match took a bizarre twist when Gabby Agbonlahor entered the fray. Roll back the years, was the thought most of us thought however fleeting. Steve Bruce is prepared to give the striker another but with supporters, the wounds run deeper. A couple of goals – more than he’s managed in the last couple of seasons in total – would probably help but yesterday, we didn’t threaten to create much, if anything, in the second half.
Overall, the result was a good one for us. Disappointing in the sense that everyone wants to win the derby, no-one wants to lose either. Four games unbeaten is as good a start as Steve Bruce would have asked for, particularly with two derbies in that run.
With his feet under the table, the expectation is the Bruce will build on these positive foundations.