September 26, 2013 by bluenosebible
Written By: Nat Peters
When you are drawn against the holders of any cup competition you fear the worst; will we get turned over? Will they be all out to defend the trophy they fought so hard to win? With Swansea, this was even more pertinent as this was the first ever trophy they had won. I feared the worst when I saw our name pulled out of the hat alongside that of the side from South Wales (why do they ever call it a hat nowadays? It’s usually a glass bowl filled with balls). The Swans made ten changes from the starting XI that beat Palace at Selhurst Park on the Sunday, but their line-up still contained very recognisable names like Leon Britton, Jonjo Shelvey, Neil Taylor and most intimidatingly of all, £12million striker Wilfried Bony. The Blue Machine meanwhile was already without loanees Kyle Bartley and Jesse Lingard (do I have to go through what he did on his debut? You should all know by now!). On top of those forced absentees Lee Clark made several other changes from the side that thrashed Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend through choice; out came the likes of Darren Randolph, Wade Elliott and David Murphy and in came Colin Doyle, Mitch Hancox and Callum Reilly. To say I was pessimistic would be an understatement.
The first-half saw Blues spray the ball around fairly well without any real end product. On the left hand side in particular Hancox was finding joy, whipping in numerous crosses but unfortunately they were well defended by a Swansea centre-half or stand in goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. Swansea however had the best real goal scoring opportunities; Bony then Alejandro Pozuelo both hit the crossbar from close range after a superb delivery from a Britton corner, whilst Doyle made two excellent saves in one-on-one situations from Bony and Roland Lamah, the latter of those two was denied an opportunity only by an excellent last-ditch Paul Robinson tackle. Blues weren’t being battered, but towards the end of the half we were hanging on in there and the referee’s whistle to signal the interval came as a great relief to all.
Half-time saw me insist to my mate Steve Jinks that we had ridden the storm, and that we would now go on and win the tie altogether; he agreed but didn’t sound convinced, and to be honest I wasn’t convinced either. If the game continued in the manner as the first-half had ended we would’ve been battered. However, after the referee’s whistle to restart the match we piled onto Swansea, as Mitch Hancox was fouled inside the Swansea box just as many fans were still finishing their half-time pint (I should know, I was continuing to watch from a screen on the concourse), but unfortunately the referee failed to give what was a clear as mud penalty. Still, Blues pressed on, with Matt Green doing all the hard work in creating an opening from a Swans defensive mix-up only to fail to finish it off as he really should’ve done as his snap-shot was saved by Tremmel. Still, the frustration wasn’t to last long, as Paul Caddis sprinted past Neil Taylor to send in a deep-lying cross that was met by the head of Dan Burn who sent a bullet past Tremmel’s flailing left hand. 1-0 Blues, and suddenly a cup shock really felt like it could be on.
The second goal wasn’t far behind. A well worked move was played down the right-hand side of the pitch, the ball got squared inside the Burke, who in turn spread it across to the haring Mitch Hancox down the left flank. His superb first time low cross was tapped by Matt Green’s at the far post and it was 2-0. The whole ground seemed to go mad at this, as enthusiastic a celebration of a goal I’ve seen for a fair while at Stan’s, as the realisation of just how well the Blues were playing started to hit folks. The euphoria around the ground had been missing all season; considering this was only a third-round tie of the League Cup, you could sense a lot of pent-up frustration being released.
Swansea tried to work their way back into the game, but a couple of long-range efforts by Shelvey did little to trouble Doyle in goal. In fact Blues looked the more likely to get the next goal of the game, with Chris Burke time and again jinking his way through what was an increasingly exasperated Swansea backline but to little avail. A third Blues goal did eventually come, from the most unlikely of scorers. Tom Adeyemi, pressing the opposition like he has been doing well all season eventually got the break he richly deserved as the midfielder won the ball deep in the opposition half. He worked the ball to the oncoming Burke, who drew the diving Tremmel before playing it back to the workhorse Adeyemi who slid it into the net. The goal and the security it provided was not undeserved; Blues had played Swansea off the park in the second-half and everyone, including the Swansea players, knew that fact.
The game meandered to its conclusion after that, with Swansea getting a last-gasp consolation through Bony, but by then it was far too late. Blues were through to the next round and deservedly so. Full-time brought a great cheer from the official crowd of 7,470 (though there looked to be a fair few more inside to me), and in the pub after news that we had drawn Stoke at home in the next round didn’t exactly dampen spirits. A tough draw, but then again so was Swansea.
Overall, a very enjoyable night for Blues fans. What does it mean? Well it breeds confidence, it breeds hope, and it sets a standard that if we can beat a side like Swansea like we did why shouldn’t we continue in that manner? I’m not sure whether we can progress in the cup, but another long-time home and away Blues’ stalwart Eddie Hemming told me that he thought we’d go on and on in this trophy outside the ground. If Bradford can get to Wembley, why can’t we? We have a proud and rich tradition in this competition, especially when it comes to pulling off shocks. We could do it again, you never, ever know.
Birmingham boss Lee Clark:
“I’m absolutely delighted. I think to win a game like that against the quality of opposition we’re up against is very satisfying.
“Not only are Swansea the holders but I said before the game that I felt it was the hardest tie we could have got outside the so-called top six, a club that’s on the up in everything that they do.
“Even though they made changes I don’t think it affects them as they’ve got a philosophy that runs through the club.”
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup:
“I want to go as far as possible in all competitions. We lost the possibility to go far in the competition.
“I have no regrets (about making 10 changes). You could say 10 changes from the last game but five of the players who played here were in the starting XI against Valencia.
“I don’t think I’m wrong if I say we could have been four up at half-time.
“And then with Birmingham’s first chance they score, and then the other two goals I think there was a little misunderstanding at the back and in the end we lost the game.”
Unused subs: Townsend, Ambrose, Arthur, Lovenkrands, Lee, Allan
Man of the match:
First-half: Colin Doyle, without his saves we would’ve been two or three-nil down before half time, and the game would’ve been over.
Second-half: Mitch Hancox, the bloke never stopped running down the left-flank, was a constant thorn in the Swansea defence and played a superb ball for the second goal.