Setting the scene
Last time we faced Birmingham back in December they were six points off the play offs having just sacked manager Gary Rowett. That looks like one of the biggest managerial cock ups in recent history now given that they are six points off the relegation zone having won just twice in 20 games under his replacement Gianfranco Zola. This had a repeat of Saturday’s win over Blackburn written all over it – a struggling side who would park the bus and who we may struggle to break down.
Chris Hughton changed both his full backs from the weekend with Bruno and Gaetan Bong repalcing Liam Rosenior and Sebastien Pocognoli who both failed to make the 18 man squad. Chuba Akpom’s inability to give a toss cost him his place with Tomer Hemed coming in and at long, long last Solly March was given a start over Jiri Skalak. The injured duo of Shane Duffy and Sam Baldock aside, the Albion fielded arguably their best starting XI. Lewis Dunk was only 50-50 to start on the morning of the game due to sickness and he was substituted by half time after a lung bursting charge down the left wing left him bent over double recovering like a Sunday League player coming off the back of an all day Saturday bender. Fikayo Tomori replaced him and had his best game so far, suggesting that he is far a centre half rather than a full back.
An early goal was needed to settle everyone down and avoid Birmingham becoming more and more entrenched with what would inevitably prove to be a parked bus. It arrived inside of 90 seconds, a quite brilliant passing move that ended with Glenn Murray smashing home Bruno’s cross. We had to wait slightly longer of the second half for the lead to be doubled, the second goal arriving two minutes after the restart when Hemed chested in Murray’s header over the stranded Tomasz Kuszczak from virtually on the line. The outstanding Uwe Hunemeier then smashed in a third to make it game, set and match. Credit to Birmingham though, they didn’t simply roll over at that point as we’ve seen so many teams do when on the end of a bit of hammering and pulled one back late on through Che Adam’s shot which deflected past David Stockdale as he dived the wrong way.
Birmingham had the best non-goal scoring chance of the game to equalise, Craig Gardner’s brilliant free kick smashing the crossbar as Stockdale could only watch. Birmingham spent most of the first half on top after that without ever really testing Stockdale significantly while Hunemeier nearly scored a second with a delightful glancing header that wasn’t far away. The man is bloody fantastic.
WeAreBrighton.com Man of the Match
Uwe Hunemeier. We might as well just bloody copy and paste the same thing we have been writing about him for the past month. Even more outstanding on this occasion however as he had young Tomori to help through the game but both those two were superb.
The good news is we’ve now confirmed our play off spot. The even better news is that it looks increasingly likely we won’t bloody need them. 10 points clear of third placed Reading, this was a result that was based entirely on that early goal. Again, like Saturday this wasn’t our most fluent of performances particularly when Birmingham were the better side in the first half, but the three points on the board is all that matters at this stage in the season. Two tough away games lie in wait at QPR and Wolves on consecutive Friday’s but the Premier League is within touching distance. Don’t believe us? Ask the bookies, with the best price available on us finishing in the top two 1/50 with Bet365. When do you ever see a poor bookie?
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