Gianfranco Zola can finally breathe one big sigh of relief after today’s 1-0 win for Blues today against a Fulham side who came into the game in quite good form. It was a deserved one and it was something Zola needed!
Blues dominated the early exchanges with pretty much most of the chances. Fulham on the other hand, found a friend in catching us on the counter attack, just as Reading did on Tuesday night. Still, Zola’s men were on top with a few of the new signings starting. Nsue & Keita at right and left back, Gardner in the middle, with Jerome Sinclair playing as a winger. The Hornets loanee started well, playing as if he really did fit in the Blues side and Birmingham Talisman Lukas Jutkiewitz played as good as always, holding the ball up well allowing the midfielders to join the attack. Through this, there were attempts on goal where we could have scored early on and we nearly did when Juke headed off the bar; the first half really did begin to build in tension.
Fulham’s loan star from Derby County, Chris Martin, who has gone under the radar lately, took a shot and it was bravely blocked by Paul Robinson. In the process it hit Robinon straight in the face, but being the heroic captain he is, Paul got straight back up and carried on with the game and instantly blocked another Fulham effort where the visitors from Craven cottage could have easily grabbed an equaliser.
Apart from spells of promising passing football and some close chances, there wasn’t much else for Gianfranco Zola and his team to shout about in the first half, but a really good showing from the Blues and no danger going into half time that Slavisa Jokanavic’s men could take the lead.
The second half began and left back Cheick Keita was Blues’ most consistent player going forward and was a shining star throughout the second 45. A diagonal ball across the pitch from David Davis to Keita was heading out of play and he kept it in with a sublime touch and then chip passed it onto the running feet of Jerome Sinclair. He then shortly after came off and was replaced by number 14 – Che Adams, who came on as a winger to support Lukas Jutkiewitz and the game started to have that sense that Blues were going to get something out of the game, but being at home and Zola still without that ‘first illusive win’, the boys in royal blue really did need to win. Again, the Blues dominance was heard by Fulham and maybe too much from right back Ryan Fredericks who was shown a straight red card for challenge on Craig Gardner. With 20 minutes remaining, the Cottager’s chances failed to test Tomasz Kuszczak and from Kuszczak’s handling, was where young Keita could make his influential runs up the pitch. The former Bolton and Burnley striker netted home from close range and to the Blues fans’ delight, they led 75 minutes in!
Blues didn’t sit back and kept pushing Fulham, many more chances were flooding in and one was a palpable acrobatic over-head kick from Jutkiewitz which was tipped over from David Button. But from there on in, it didn’t seem like Fulham were to score and brake Birmingham’s hearts, it was meant to be for Gianfranco that he was to get his first Blues win from the 11th time of asking…
Jokanavic’s side were solid for the majority of the game through the middle, but considering the Whites are a few games unbeaten they didn’t threaten a team who’d lost 10 in a row whatsoever and the search for Zola’s first win as Blues manager is over – a 1-0 against Fulham puts Blues on 40 points and they face Sheffield Wednesday next Friday night. Will Jonathan Grounds and Paul Robinson keep their places in the heart of the defence?
Birmingham City – GK; Kuszczak , RB; Nsue , CB; Robinson , CB; Grounds , LB; Keita
CM; Gleeson , CM; Davis , CM; Kieftenbeld
RW; Gardner , ST; Jutkiewitz , LW; Sinclair
Fulham – GK; Button , RB; Kalas , CB; Ream , CB; Fredericks , LB; Sessegnon
CDM; McDonald , CDM; Johanson
RM; Aluko , CAM; Cairney , LM; Piazon , ST; Martin
Possession – Birmingham; 49.1% , Fulham; 50.9
Shots – Birmingham; 18 , Fulham; 13
Shots on target – Birmingham; 8 , Fulham; 2
Corners – Birmingham; 8 , Fulham; 4
Fouls – Birmingham; 17 , Fulham; 16