Nationwide Division One, 1/10/00
No job too small
By Martin Blanc
Tricky one, this. We'll all look back on it - players, staff, fans - and think, whoa, good side, Birmingham, big test, two-nil, hey, we were sailing along.
Truth to tell, it was mucky work, and anyone with a slightly better memory for detail will always recall that too. In the first half we were shaping up to be a Sunday roast dinner, especially Tommy Mooney, who so plainly didn't want to be out there that either he'd just had a large meal, or was being unreasonably kept from having one, or was in fact not Tommy Mooney at all, but a replicant, and a cross one at that. Not to dwell on the negative, but his touch and more importantly his passion seemed to have deserted him for much of the game.
Baardsen would be back, we'd heard. He wasn't. Our second string keeper was none too well either. But Alec Chamberlain wasn't ruled out of the game because it transpires no-one suspected or realised he had Chris Day's Disease until he was rendered immobile in his six-yard box on so many occasions that Page and Ward stopped heading the ball to him, which had its own drawbacks. Alec can still stop shots with the best of them, thank goodness, though he didn't have many to stop, since we were working well at the back once again, and anyway we should have been plenty to the good before Nielsen's effort on fifty-eight minutes. Helguson scored a beautiful chip from nigh on thirty yards out that was ruled out for Wooter being somewhere near the corner flag on the touchline. But the rest of the time the midfield couldn't really grab hold of the game, and since midfield is where Mooney positioned himself, alternating left-back duties with Robbo some of the rest of the game, it's mainly to him that we looked for a bit more attention to the matter in hand. Which he never really delivered.
In the second half Helguson rose imperiously to head in a lovely Cox free kick that seemed a bit more obviously offside than his earlier effort, but only because the linesman had raised the flag plenty of seconds earlier. Once Helguson's cross-box volley had been turned in by Nielsen, we tightened up, as if it was only confidence we lacked, which seems a bizarre omission in a side riding so high. Wooter, who'd been fantastic in his own way right from the start, wove towards the goalline but still no more than eight yards from the net, flicked it over everyone, and there was Cox heading it in at the back post. And from there, the middle of the pitch opened up, and we should have had a hatful, the best of them by far being a Robinson run resembling Smith (where was he?) rather than Wooter, a perhaps less than perfect cross, but Gifton's limby prowess enabling him to get a hoof to it and hook it towards the top corner for a fantastic, triumphant third...but it swished the bar and headed into the Rookery.
No worries, then - at least once the indigestible first half had been got out of the boys' collective system. Eventually we're going to lose at home in the League. But with this sort of luck, and spirit, it shouldn't be any time soon.