Saints Get Point At Birmingham
Sat 4th Feb 2012
A goalless draw at St. Andrew's was the almost inevitable outcome in a game more which will be remembered for its awkward playing conditions more than the quality of football. In a largely scrappy affair it was Birmingham who had the two best chances but they were thwarted by goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.
With the pitch being covered with a layer of snow the game was played with yellow balls. The ground staff were busy trying to keep the pitch clear as the snow fell when the two teams came out of the tunnel.
Birmingham began the better with N'Daw sending Murphy away down the left with Richardson doing well to block his shot. Six minutes later Schneiderlin fouled Burke on the edge of the area giving the hosts a great chance but Murphy wasted the opportunity by hitting his shot low and then ballooning the rebound over.
N'Daw then had a header sail over as Birmingham kept up the pressure on Saints defence. Saints gradually worked their way into the game and on 19 minutes Adam Lallana passed out wide to Richardson whose cross was turned behind for a Saints corner. Puncheon worked a quick one two before shooting only for his shot to be blocked.
Danny Fox became the first player booked after winning the ball in what looked like a fair challenge. He may have felt aggrieved but with the conditions worsening and the game becoming more even there were very few goalden opportunities arriving.
Lambert had a 40 yard effort blocked and then in one of the best moves of the first half Lallana fed Puncheon who spread the ball wide to Richardson, whose cross went to Connolly who had his shot blocked. Time was running out and with no more chances created it was all square at the break.
The second half began with the hosts again dominating. Murphy got down the left and squared the ball to Marlon King who hit a low skidding shot which looked to be heading inside the corner of the goal but Kelvin Davis made a brilliant save ny diving full length to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Six minutes into the half and David Connolly was substituted with Billy Sharp. Who's arrival caused a surge of excitement to the Saints fans. Not that it was easy to spot the player as the snow was coming down even more heavily.
Kelvin Davis again came to Saints rescue when he just beat Rooney to the ball diving at his feet as he went for an N'Daw cross. In the resulting scramble there was an appeal by the hosts for a penalty but it was turned away by Phill Dowd the referee. A man that was not very popular with either set of fans due to some strange decisions.
Birmingham kept up the pressure and Mutch blazed over and then N'Daw blasted high and wide from distance. It looked likely that Birmingham would possibly break the deadlock during this spell but Saints held firm at the back.
On 66 minutes a throw-in from the left went to Lambert who passed inside to Sharp but he took too long to bring the ball under control and he was denied by a blocking tackle from Murphy and the ball was cleared. In better conditions he might have taken a snap shot but in the snowy conditions it looked as though the ball stuck between his feet.
Chris Hughton sent on Southampton born Wade Elliott for Rooney with Nigel Adkins then changing Jason Puncheon with Guly do Prado. This substitution immediately saw Guly involved as he danced past N'Daw before he was brought down by the Birmingham player.
Chances were now extremely rare as both sides were finding it ever more difficult to control the ball. N'Daw blazed well wide from thirty yards. Saints made their final change with Dean Hammond coming on for Jack Cork.
Danny Fox then stopped an attack down the right with Burke apparently being fouled. Nobody saw a foul except the referee who then not only awarded a free kick to the Blues but issued a second yellow to the defender. The look of shock on Fox's face told the tale and he clearly felt he had done little wrong.
Moments later Caldwell cynically hauled down Guly as he went through with a clear shooting chance. We waited with bated breath for the red card but it wasn't shown and the ten men held out for the remaining minutes and the game ended all square at 0-0.
In a game that had so much at stake it maybe no surprise that this game ended in this way but it was clear to see why both sides are near the top of the table. Birmingham have a strong defensive outlook and were never really in serious danger whilst Saints had the edge in possession and at times showed more control. The conditions were extreme and probably held the upper hand.