FA CUP: Birmingham City 0 Wolves 2
The debate over just who is the region’s top dog in the Coca Cola Championship may yet to be decided but Wolves won the bragging rights over their Birmingham neighbours in this FA Cup encounter.
Two goals – one from Andy Keogh and the other from Sam Vokes - with a little assistance from referee Howard Webb – were enough to send the 4,000 visiting fans home happy and their team into the fourth round.
Keogh’s strike on 36 minutes came after a great through ball by Michael Kightly while they both had a hand in Vokes’ second half strike.
Blues fans will feel aggrieved however that Vokes’ goal was helped after a Radhi Jaidi clearance was deflected off the referee straight to the feet of the Wolves frontmen.
And they were positively livid when Richard Stearman’s attempt to clear a loose ball resulted in a lungeing late tackle on Marcus Bent which looked every inch a penalty but which was not awarded.
But in the end Wolves were the better side with the midfield of Michael Kightly, Karl Henry and George Friend showing much more fluidity and movement than their hosts.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy had chosen to play Sam Vokes and Andy Keogh up front – resting his usual pairing of Chris Iwelumo and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – and his stand-in strikers did not disappoint. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish meanwhile was without striker Kevin Phillips who has a hip injury and, after Bent limped off at half-time, was left with a lone striker in Jerome for the second half.
Cynics who might have thought these two teams had little interest in the country’s premier domestic cup were soon proved wrong as both sides put on a creditable show of entertaining Championship football although neither side will miss the crunching tackles synonymous with this level if they can gain promotion.
Wolves – without right-back Kevin Foley and with midfielder George Friend making only his third appearance of the season – might have thought the game was about to be postponed again after the pitch was shrouded with thick black smoke midway through the first half, but in the end the smog was put down to a neighbouring house fire.
And in the end that did not do enough to mask Birmingham’s inadequacies although Cameron Jerome had plenty of chances to get the home side back in the game including a fantastic strike on 67 minutes after a great turn and pass from Nigel Quashie.
Lee Carsley also had a 20-yard effort fly just wide of Wayne Hennessey’s upright while Michael Kightly might have added to Wolves’ tally.
Chris Iwelumo entered the fray with little more than ten minutes to go for Sam Vokes and then Sylvan Ebanks-Blake came on for Keogh, but by then the damage was done.
Robin Shroot’s last-gasp effort forced a save from Hennessey but by then it was the visiting fans in the Railway End leaving happiest.
By the final whistle the smoke was long gone as were Birmingham’s FA Cup ambitions for another season.
*?Up to 500 Birmingham fans were left irate after a problem with ticket collections meant they missed the opening 20 minutes of the game.
Birmingham supporter Glen Hudson, from Nottingham, said; “We arrived in plenty of time at 7pm only to find the queue snaking back hundreds deep past the club shop.
“In the end the tickets had to be brought out to quell the fans who were furious to miss the start of the action.”