Travelling Blues: Birmingham City vs Swansea City

A few weeks back I wrote about my first away match as a Swansea fan where the Swans traveled to West Brom and came away with a convincing 2-0 win, at the time I spoke of my enjoyment but conceded that this was largely influenced by the Swans being dominant and getting the victory.

Yesterday, I went to the midlands again to watch the Swans, this time as they went to St Andrews to face Birmingham City in the League Cup, the tournament that last year Swansea had won. I’d got there by train and car with some mates and was eagerly looking forward to an evening of football with Swansea looking the favourites.

We then got thumped 3-1.

While the game was a dud, and Swansea’s performance atrocious I still had a good time, thanks largely to being with my mates, getting a little lost on the drive back and chanting away, but it definitely lacked the heights of the West Brom trip.

The first reason for this was that when we arrived we found that St Andrews was largely empty (see picture below) and this meant that as at the Hawthorns the Swansea fans were louder for much of the match (cue chants of “Is this a nunnery?”). There was a small group of young lads who chanted back, but 12 angry young men is hardly impressive and it was hard to make out what they were chanting.

You know it's a bad attendance when you can read the letters in the chairs.

You know it’s a bad attendance when you can read the letters in the chairs.

The Swans fans came in strong with “You’re just a small town in Villa”, referencing the fact that Birmingham’s neighbours are the more successful and well known team in the city. The Brummies responded with “You’re just a small town in Cardiff”, which didn’t really make sense and also displayed a lack of imagination.

This wanting was echoed on the pitch, with the game being rather disappointing. Swansea had the better of the chances in the first half, but didn’t convert and looked shaky at the back, with the Blues constantly pushing up and applying pressure down the flanks. None of the home team’s attacks looked particularly threatening, and were handled easily by Gerhard Tremmel in goal.

Wilfried Bony, Swansea’s striker came close a couple of times and seemed to have overcome two flaws from earlier games- a tendency to dive and the fact he doesn’t do a whole lot of running. He fought for the ball a bit and even cleared a few corners when he dropped back, and impressed me, even if he was one of few bright sparks for the Swans.

This was the club’s 4th match in ten days, and at times it showed. Jonjo Shelvey looked tired and lacklustre, squandering half chances and passing without much aim, and several of the players were shaky. Key players like Michu and Chico Flores sat on the bench, while Ashley Williams and Angel Rangel didn’t even make the trip.

It was a weaker side and coming off big matches against Liverpool and Valencia, along with Crystal Palace at the weekend, it would be easy to say that Swansea have different priorities but there are no excuses for the major fact of the game- Birmingham deserved the win.

Swansea never hit a higher gear and a little over ten minutes after the restart Birmingham’s persistent pressure paid off and Dan Burn headed home.

Suddenly the rest of St Andrews woke up and started making some noise, and while Swansea charged looking for an equalizer they didn’t come close and it was the home side who got the next goal, with Matt Green extended a lead after 61 minutes.

The Swans after Birmingham scored

The Swans after Birmingham scored

Half hour to go, surely Swansea could salvage this and while they pushed up they never looked particularly threatening. Too many crosses went sailing too far or else found nobody waiting for them, Shelvey and Bony shot from around the edge of the area without real conviction. Fans around me started talking of Michu coming on, and substitutions were made, Shelvey, dead on his feet was taken off shortly before the 75 minute mark, replaced by Jose Canas, but it was too late, and he should have been switched at the break.

With a little under 10 minutes to go, Birmingham struck again through Tom Adeyemi, and the game ceased to be a competition. My fears of a fourth were fortunately unrealized.

Feeling around me in the away end was negative. Several fans left early or stood complaining, the chanting from a more vocal (although still sparse) home crowd ringing in our years, yet even facing an ignoble defeat there was some sense of humour, with the Swans fans launching into “It’s out of sympathy!” (to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay”) and much laughter at the fact Birmingham fans were already singing about Wembley.

In the fourth minute of added time Wilfried Bony scored a consolation goal with virtually the last kick of the game, but 3-1 is only marginally more respectable than 3-0 to lower league opponents.

Tiredness, priorities, a weakened line-up- these are excuses, and on the night the home team played better.

That being said, the Brummie we overheard commenting to a friend “We got our respect back today” may be talking too soon, as there’s still a way to go before the final and I wouldn’t put money on them replicating their 2011 triumph. But best of luck to them.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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