Deputy Editor Harry Wilkinson gives a fan’s perspective on the weekend’s City derby between Birmingham and Aston Villa
How can a game finishing 0-0 be so stressful? A Villa performance lacking in quality gives Blues a half-deserved draw, despite the boys in Claret and Blue hitting the bar twice, and forcing a brilliant save from Blues ‘keeper Kuzczak.
For me, Villa did enough to win the game. Blues probably edged the first half, as Villa were poor, but the chances we created in the second half should have saw us leave with a victory. It took a long time for Villa to settle into the game, but that is understandable due to the hostile atmosphere, not helped by Birmingham administrators Â arming their fans with clappers (which will be discussed more later).
Blues did have chances, most notably Jota’s 1v1 early in the second half due to a careless pass from Hourihane, but that was about it as far as clear-cut chances go. Blues did knock on the door consistently throughout the game, but seemed reliant on the ball falling to someone after goal-mouth scrappiness, rather than creating something via quality. It didn’t fall for them; credit to the stern defending by Terry and Chester, and a battling performance by Whelan.
In the second half, when Villa started to settle, they ended up hitting the bar twice, and had a Hourihane free-kick diverted inches wide by a Terry header. Throughout the game though, both teams lacked quality. This isn’t so much a surprise for Blues, but Villa had players that could have been more threatening. Snodgrass, for example, had a poor game. He seems to have got into a habit of swaying into the centre, rather than staying wide and being an outlet.
Throughout, Johnstone wasn’t really tested in goal, aside from a few efforts straight at him in the first half, including a header from Nâ€™Doye. The same cannot be said of Kuzczak, who was needed to produce an unbelievable save from a Kodjia header in the second half.
Strangely, it was in the latter portion of the game when Villa started to look most lively. With it being goalless, some might have expected a more cautious and tense finish from the away side, but it was the opposite that occurred.. Keinan Davis came on and instantly dominated, with Kodjia struggling with being isolated against Morrison, who seemed to be man-marking him out of the game for most parts.
However, for the short time the striking pair were on the pitch together, they looked very dangerous. Davis rattled the bar after the move of the game saw Alan Hutton through on goal, get his shot saved causing the ball fell to Davis who opted to smash the ball towards the goal. Agonisingly close. Soon after Kodjia was put into the left side by Davis, before curling a short into the fair corner, clipping the bar. Unfortunately, in this process Kodjia turned on his ankle and had to come off. Not much else happened after this, aside from a late free-kick that was hit over by Adomah.
Overall, it was a useful point for both teams. For Blues, of course, they could do with every point they can. But for Villa, it was a hard-earned point that keeps them in the play-off spots.
In an idea that can only be described as idiotic, Birmingham provided each of their fans with a folded, card clapper; an ideal object to throw at players whilst taking corners and throw-ins. It should be noted that I don’t think Blues fans should really be blamed for throwing the clappers at the players- if it was at Villa Park, the same thing would have happened. However, throwing them at players when down injured, or using other objects such as coins and bottles, that’s not acceptable.
What makes the clappers even more ridiculous is that they were actually claret and blue, something the Villa fans let the Blues fans know by chanting, ‘Those f***ing clappers, they’re claret and blue.’ The West Midlands police called them awful and naïve, and said that if consulted by Birmingham before the match, they would have advised against them.
Another laughable piece of marketing by Birmingham administers was their embarrassing pre-match mosaic sign, which flipped on its side, causing the equally laughable words ‘Our City is Blue’ to be rightfully obscured. Villa fan group Project B6 demonstrated properly how to make an evocative sign with, a Small Heath Forever in Our Shadow being displayed clearly before and after the game.
The WM police had a tough day with trouble from Blues fans, with some idiots actively fighting with police on the left side of the Kop stand following full-time.
The Villa fans were kept behind after the game in order to give time for Blues fans to be flushed out, but some images have shown hundreds of them hanging around, near The Coventry Road Iland roundabout. Whilst being forced away, allegedly Blues fans had been fighting and throwing bottles and bricks at police. Thus it wasn’t until around 3:30, an hour and a half after full-time, that Villa fans were finally let out.
Last year, the away fans were escorted (surrounded by riot police) and walked to Duddeston station, about a mile away using the dual carriage way. This time, however, once being let out it was more of a free-for-all, with the vast majority of police presence being stationed at the stadium. It appeared to be safe until we got up to the Bordesley station bridge, where a group of about twenty blues fans were waiting, and attempted to spark some violence.
It was a surprise, and as a result Villa fans were a spread out sparsely, meaning there was no real targeted group by the Blues fans. No-one really reacted- neither by fleeing or engaging. A riot van slowly headed towards where the altercation could have set off, meaning from what I saw, no fight broke out. It easily could have got messy, as the Blues fans were clearly motivated having waited a whole hour and a half for the Villa fans to arrive.