Classic Match: Blues 4 Ipswich 1

By Phil Barnett
Last updated : 23 November 2008
The following report was written straight after the match by Blues fan Bulldog Barnett.

Thursday, 31st January 2001
Worthington Cup Semi-Final, 2nd Leg

Birmingham City 4 - 1 Ipswich

Blues reached their first major cup final since 1963 with an extra-time win over Premier league outfit Ipswich Town, their third top flight scalp of this season's Worthington Cup.

The mighty Blues had already put out Spurs and Newcastle and had to catch up a single goal first leg lead which Ipswich held going into tonight's tie at St Andrews.

Brum's hero was Geoff Horsfield with goals inside ninety minutes and extra time, the second putting his team back in front on aggregate after Scowcroft had levelled things up on aggregate following Martin Grainger's opener and Horsfield's first.

Despite the result being practically done and dusted, Blues victory was all-but confirmed in the second period of extra-time, when a mistake from Ipswich goalkeeper Richard Wright presented substitute Andrew Johnson with an un-missable chance to secure the tie and the home side's trip to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium for a Worthington Cup final meeting with Liverpool.

This is the sole major competition that Blues have ever won, and this is the closest we have been for thirty-seven whole years.
Maybe that is why it tastes so, so sweet!

Dele Adebola, Blues' Worthington Cup hero in earlier rounds, was unable to reproduce his goalscoring form in the early stages of tonight's semi-final second leg against Ipswich.

Although looking strong and lively, he lacked sharpness in front of goal.
Deel's had a glorious opportunity to cancel out Ipswich's 1-0 first-leg lead but the somewhat hefty striker skied his shot over the bar from close range.

City dominated the opening exchanges in their bid to get back on level terms, with chances arriving but unfortunately not finished capably.

From an Ian Bennett free-kick after only two minutes, right half Nicky Eaden failed to test England contender Wright.

Premiership surprise package Ipswich, losers in four of their last five away games, had to soak up plenty of pressure and kept a clean sheet purely through the work of their defence, namely Richard Wright in goal and Mark Venus at the back.

The "tractor boys" suffered a few heart stopping moments to the hands of Blues, and were lucky not to concede earlier.
One particular chance stood out when a high, curving cross found Stan Lazaridis at the far post. The Australian headed the ball back towards Nigerian Adebola but Magilton intercepted & was forced to concede a corner.

With such a hectic start, tempers quickly became frayed as a result of some reckless tackling and poor refereeing from the notorious Jeff Winter.
I try sincerely to be impartial and unbiased in my match reports, therefore I will say only this - This referee is possibly the worst Blues have had at St.Andrews this season, and is on a par with messrs Styles and D'Urso.
It is a shame that some referee's feel the need to be the "star of the show" at matches, instead of concentrating on officiating the game in a fair and consistent manner. This was highlighted when the "aggressive" Naylor scythed down Darren Purse and was immediately booked by referee Winter.

Shortly afterwards Adebola wasted his opportunity after being put into the clear by the hard working Eaden.

While the standard of the surface was deteriorating, Blues continued to push Ipswich in their attempt for the goal which would get them back into the fixture.

The mighty Darren Purse came close with a glancing nod from a cross by Lazaridis.

Ipswich looked uncomfortable when the tension rose and Blues piled on more and more pressure. This showed when Magilton was booked for another bad tackle on Danny Sonner.The Ipswich forward line proved almost non-existent due to the outstanding work of Michael Johnson and Purse, and there appeared little likelihood of the Premiership side increasing their advantage.

Adebola continued to be a major threat, although he should have produced a better execution than a weak header from a left-flank Lazaridis cross.

But the Blues striker certainly made up for it two minutes before half-time when he sailed over a left-wing cross which Richard Wright failed to clear and Gary Croft attempted to clear but only managed to slice the ball upwards in an attempt to clear, and Martin Grainger raced in to head home Blues' vital goal from just a yard out. The goal was richly deserved, after Blues had domintated the previous 42 minutes.

The second half began in explosive style after some new-found attacking play from Ipswich.

From this period onwards, Ipswich began to open themselves up and come out their shell.

But the tactic backfired after 55 minutes when big Blues striker Geoff Horsfield sent the voiciferous Bluenoses crazy with happiness with the home side's 2nd goal of the game.

Again, it was Big Dele Adebola who played a huge role. He incisively put Horsfield in position.

The Barnsley-born forward hit a low shot which was saved at close range by the oncoming Wright. But the Blues striker coolly slotted another left-footed shot through Wright's legs, to put the home side into the lead for the first time in the two legs.

Unfortunately the celebrations didnt last for longer than two minutes.

While Blues supporters were still being ushered back into the stands, Ipswich kicked off and scored straight away.

Stewart latched onto a through ball and shot from 10 yards. Despite Bennett saving well, the ball fell only to Scowcroft who blasted in from just two yards.

This deflated the Blues for a short while- the goal from Ipswich meant that if the score remained the same, they would progress to the final on the away goals rule.

The last 10 minutes of normal time saw Blues firing themselves up and gallantly attacking, however it was in vain and it was 2-2 on the night, after 180 minutes of play.

Horsfield could only watch an ingenious dipping attempt from the left hit the cross bar and seconds later the Blues striker forced Richard Wright to make a point blank save to keep Ipswich in the game.

Geoff Horsfield grabbed his second goal of the game in the 1st period of extra-time, to put the Blues back into the lead on aggregate and have the home fans dreaming once more of a trip to Cardiff next month.

The goal came after some lovely work from fellow Yorkshireman Danny Sonner.

Sonner, influential throughout the game, picked up the ball outside the Ipswich box. After holding up the ball well, waiting for options, he anticipated Horsfield's darting run from the right. Although surrounded by defenders, he skillfully turned on the ball to change direction and played a superb, cutting ball into the area. Horsfield didn't even flinch, curling the ball round Wright with his right foot without even taking a touch. Even the Ipswich fans back in Norfolk could hear the noise as St Andrews went off.

Blues sub Andy Johnson pounced on a mistake by Wright. The young keeper completely missed a backpass, letting AJ get in to confirm the victory.

A great night not only for Blues, but also for Birmingham in general.
The boys played and fought like their lives depended on it, and it showed.
Mr. Francis- they are a credit to you.


LINE-UP: Bennett; Gill, Grainger, Purse, Johnson.M, Eaden ( Hughes 109 mins ), Lazaridis ( Burrows 118 mins ), O'Connor, Sonner, Horsfield, Adebola ( Johnson.A 97 mins ).
Subs Not Used: Poole, Ndlovu.

PLAYER-BY-PLAYER.

Bennett
... had surprisingly little to do, not at fault for the goal in any way. 7

Gill
... a great perfomance once again, linking superbly with Eaden throughout the match. Flawless defending and inventive attacking. 8

Grainger
... wherever it looks scrappy, Grainge is always there. Last night was no different. Got the all-important goal and showed his usual commitment. 8

Johnson(M)
... the majority of his workload was in the opposition half, pushing forward regularly in order to get Blues their much deserved lead. However, he was also steady as usual at the back and gave Naylor no chance. 8

Purse
... very, very close to being my man of the match. Absolutely magnificent once again, nothing got past him all night and at times he went from striker to defensive midfielder. 9

Eaden
... truly great performance, one of his best. Proved the strength of his partnership with Gill once again. Exellent. 8

Lazaridis
... despite the un-suitable conditions, Stan still shone brightly in the mire. Dazzling runs again, just needed to sharpen up his distribution. 8

O'Connor
... held the midfield together well, kept the players wound up and motivated, especially in extra time. Made sure they kept their spirit after Ipswich's goal. Great performance, especially in terms of captaincy. 8

Sonner
... along with Purse, he was another contender for man of the match. Combatative, skillfull and creative. Beautiful football leading up to the third goal. 9

Adebola
... didn't stop, ran his heart out and kept plugging away until his hard work was rewarded. The pass for Horsfield's first was genius. 8

Horsfield
... MAN OF THE MATCH...very, VERY close, but Horsfield edges it over Sonner and Purse. His hard work this season was rewarded in explosive fashion. Two very good goals and also created many other chances. 9 and a half!

Report by Phil Barnett

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