April 14, 2015 by Shane Ireland
Birmingham City 2 – 2 Blackburn Rovers
Written by: Shane Ireland
Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers shared the spoils in an entertaining display which sprung to life in the second half.
The visitors twice took the lead through Matt Kilgallon and Jordan Rhodes but Jonathan Grounds and Demarai Gray were on hand to hit back for Blues.
With just two minutes on the clock, playmaker Diego Fabbrini, fresh from his man-of-the-match performance in Birmingham’s 2-1 derby win over Wolves on Saturday, lost his man and unleashed a fizzing shot from 25 yards which Blackburn goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was very pleased to see clear the crossbar.
Blackburn, looking to extend their seven-match unbeaten run away from home in the Sky Bet Championship, recorded the first shot on target of the night. Craig Conway found himself in a dangerous position inside the box, however, the winger’s drilled shot was easily gathered by Birmingham goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
After the previous threat came to no avail, Blackburn this time showed a cutting edge in front of goal and took the lead on eight minutes. A right-wing corner perfectly placed into the middle of the box was headed home by defender Matt Killgallon, bagging his first goal of the season.
The dangerous Fabbrini pressed on in fine fashion, dropping excellently to collect a driven pass out of defence. He found Paul Caddis, but his cross towards the well-placed Donaldson was caught by Eastwood.
The Rovers stopper was called into action again moments later, but this time his blushes were spared as the referee awarded a fortuitous free-kick in his favour, after the goalkeeper had failed to collect the ball off his line.
On 13 minutes, St Andrew’s rose to its feet to pay tribute to 13-year-old Logan Kehoe, who tragically died while on holiday in the Canary Islands this week. Logan was a member of the club’s youth community team.
As the first period reached the half-way mark, Blues continued to struggle in retaining the ball in final third, thus Rowett’s men found themselves unable to carve out a clear-cut chance.
Despite this, the home side were enjoying frequent, if short, spells of possession in wide areas and won a free-kick when Fabbrini was brought down. David Cotterill directed a deep cross towards Rovers’ stopper Eastwood, who was again awarded a free-kick under relatively little pressure from Donaldson.
Just after half an hour, the opposition ‘keeper was tested again. Demarai Gray’s hanging cross was contested by Eastwood and Donaldson, but this time referee James Linington remarkably didn’t punish the Blues striker. From the resulting clearance, Jonathan Grounds did well to regain possession and crossed towards the unmarked Gray, but the ball was cleared to safety.
Eight minutes later, Donaldson reminded the crowd why his hard work and determination is rated so highly at St Andrew’s. The striker tirelessly chased the ball down, which appeared a lost cause, and almost restored possession for his side, but the ball fell into touch.
On the stroke of half time, Stephen Gleeson called Eastwood into action, making his first save of the night. The midfielder fired an effort towards the Rovers goal from 25 yards that took a slight deflection on its way through, proving too hot to handle for Eastwood. He palmed the ball into a dangerous area but no Blues players were present to capitalise.
After the break Birmingham looked to winger Gray, who scored the winner in the weekend’s West Midlands derby, to engineer an equaliser. After a number of dangerous crosses which cleared, the 18-year-old turned his attentions to the centre of the park. From there, his pass put Donaldson through on goal, but the striker was denied by a superb piece of defending from Ben Marshall who cleared the ball off the line with the Tilton already celebrating.
Gray, who was now the home side’s foremost attacking threat, saw his cross towards Donaldson intercepted and fall to Robert Tesche. The Nottingham Forest loanee’s driven shot was blocked, and the subsequent appeals for handball fell on deaf ears.
After 64 minutes, Birmingham’s deserved goal finally came. Jonathan Grounds was left unmarked at the near post and made no mistake in heading Cotterill’s corner into the back of the net.
But the home side were level for just four minutes, as Rovers regained their lead in bizarre fashion. Randolph, caught far off his line, decided to punch, only for the ball to deflect off Michael Morrison’s heel and into the path of Jordan Rhodes, who had to the simple task of finishing into an empty net to record his 18th goal of the season.
However, Blues were not disheartened by the calamitous goal and pushed towards the other end for a second equaliser in the space of five minutes. Gray’s weaving run and cross went unconverted, as did Cotterill’s effort after cutting inside from the right wing.
The game was quickly becoming a real end-to-end affair and Blackburn should have added a third on 77 minutes. Substitute Rudy Gestede was first excellently denied by Randolph from six yards, and Paul Caddis was on hand to block Craig Conway’s shot on the line.
Rovers were made to rue that golden opportunity as Blues fired back within just sixty seconds. Cotterill, who enjoyed a great deal of possession out wide on the night, hit a low cross that found its way to Demarai Gray who made no mistake in firing home from ten yards.
Blues were in the ascendancy and threatened to trouble the scoresheet once more. Clayton Donaldson rose highest to meet a looping cross that was well saved by Eastwood, before Lloyd Dyer’s marauding run and delivery was turned behind.
At the other end, substitute David Davis came to the rescue to deny Tom Cairney a goal-scoring opportunity as he raced back to make a challenge with the Rovers midfielder on the verge of pulling the trigger.
Into added time, the away side nearly stole it but for the efforts of Randolph. Marshall raced clear and was brilliantly denied by the feet of the Blues keeper from close range.
The dramatic nature of that match didn’t let up and Birmingham were afforded one last opportunity late on, but Grounds this time saw his powerful header saved by Eastwood, and both sides came out of an entertaining affair with a point.
Birmingham manager Gary Rowett (On Demarai Gray):
“I think that Demi should have scored more. We have spoken to him about it. I think he needs to hit the target more when he shoots.
“He is learning to get into those areas. He has to get in positions where if anything falls for him he has to finish it.
“He is 18 and he is learning. He is only a year older than my eldest son. Blimey, I am not sure he would be able to go and handle that sort of pressure on the pitch.”
Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer:
“We should have won the game, simple as that.
“We weren’t ruthless enough at both ends of the pitch. I can’t tell the players ‘well done’ for drawing a game they should be winning.”
Blues: Randolph Caddis, Morrison, Kiernan, Grounds Gleeson, Tesche; Cotterill, Fabbrini, Gray Donaldson.
Subs: Doyle, Thomas, Novak, Shinnie, Spector, Davis, Dyer.
Blackburn: Eastwood, Marshall, Spurr, Kilgallon, Olsson, O’Sullivan, Spearing, Evans, Conway, Brown, Rhodes.
Subs: Steele, Henley, Cairney, Williamson, P Taylor, Lenihan, Gestede.