Report: Wanderers 3-1 Birmingham
Wanderers ended 2012 on a high, as goals from Marcos Alonso, Chung-Yong Lee and Keith Andrews helped Dougie Freedman’s side to a 3-1 win over Birmingham City.
There were four changes to the side that lost to Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day. Skipper Kevin Davies returned from suspension, while there were also starts for Darren Pratley and goalscorers Alonso and Lee.
Sam Ricketts and Martin Petrov dropped to the bench, as did Benik Afobe, who picked up a slight knock against the Owls, but David Ngog missed out altogether.
The early exchanges were open, with both sides looking to get the ball down and play, and after 11 minutes Jay Spearing hit a looping effort towards Jack Butland’s goal which drew a sharp intake of breath from both sets of supporters as it flew narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
But just 60 seconds later the Whites found themselves behind when giant frontman Nikola Zigic nodded Birmingham in front. Chris Burke, out on the right wing, whipped in an inviting cross, and the 6ft 8” Serb found the top corner with his header.
Freedman’s side responded well and, shortly after going behind, Chris Eagles found himself in a good position to equalise. A delightful back heel from Kevin Davies played him through, but the winger flashed his shot across the face of goal.
But Wanderers continued to build pressure and by the 27th minute the scores were level. Tyrone Mears delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right-hand side and Alonso rose highest to head into the corner of the net.
And seven minutes later the game had been turned on its head, as Lee burst through to make it 2-1. The Korean beat the Blues’ offside trap and showed immense composure to skip round the advancing Butland, tapping into an unguarded net from a tight angle.
Spearing continued to look lively in the heart of the Wanderers’ midfield and, after seizing on a loose ball in the centre circle, played in Kevin Davies. The captain forced the visitors’ young England goalkeeper into a flying save, tipping the ball round the far post.
After the break the game was played at a slightly slower tempo, but there were half chances for Eagles and Pratley, with both midfielders looking to add to the Whites’ advantage.
Adam Bogdan was called into action midway through the second period, when Robbie Hall surged through the middle and unleashed a fizzing effort. The Hungarian did well to get down to his right and made a good save.
With 77 minutes played, Chris Eagles sent in a free-kick towards the head of Kevin Davies. The skipper nodded it back but the ball was stopped by a Birmingham hand and the referee pointed to the spot.
Keith Andrews, who scored twice from twelve yards at Peterborough seven days ago, stepped up again and placed the penalty right into the top corner, high out of Butland’s reach.
The Blues’ misery was compounded when goalscorer Zigic was sent off late on after picking up two bookings in a matter of seconds, as Wanderers returned to winning ways.
Wanderers: Bogdan, Mears, Ream, Knight, Alonso, Andrews, Spearing (Butterfield 89), Pratley, Lee, Eagles (Afobe 90), K Davies (Unused subs: Lonergan, Ricketts, Riley, Petrov, Sordell)
Birmingham: Butland, Robinson, Caldwell, C Davies, Hancox, Burke (Redmond 72), Mullins Spector (Elliott 59), Hall, Reilly (Jervis 79), Zigic (Unused subs: Doyle, Ibanez, Gordon, Delfouneso)