Clemence 16, Kenna 67 Ormerod 6 Match Report
As they did last season in the same fixture, Blues came back from going behind early on to a Brett Ormerod goal. There wasn't quite the entertainment this season, but Blues richly deserved the three points after responding well to a dreadful opening to the game.
With Robbie Savage suspended, Steve Bruce had to decide who would partner Stephen Clemence in the middle of midfield. Following his display a week ago against Blackburn, and perhaps casting his mind back to the same game last season, Bruce opted for Bryan Hughes in the middle of the park. With regards the ill-fated left-back position, the decision was made to play the back four that played the second half at Spurs - with Olivier Tebily coming in at right back, and Darren Carter making way at left-back for Jeff Kenna's switching of sides.
Blues were shambolic for the first five minutes, with every player looking like they were still asleep. James Beattie headed just wide from an Anders Svensson cross, before Ormerod opened the scoring after just 5 minutes. From a Jason Dodd corner, Rory Delap was given the time and space to bring the ball down and shift it to his right, before hitting a fierce drive. Maik Taylor got his body behind the shot, but could only parry the ball to Ormerod who was the only player to react, and he slotted the ball home.
Just like the last home league game against Manchester City, it took an opposition goal to stir some life into Blues. The home side did gradually get themselves back into the game, mainly on the back of some majestic play from David Dunn. Dunn's dribbling and passing not only lifted the crowd, but appeared to lift his team-mates. Damien Johnson tamely lifted a shot over the bar after good work by Clinton Morrison, before Morrison wasted a glorious ball from Dunn by not spotting an unmarked Clemence in the middle.
After 18 minutes though, Blues were on level terms, thanks to Clemence. From a Hughes corner on the right, Clemence headed the ball goalwards from the back post. It seemed that the header was a cushioned header aimed for one of his team-mates, but it appeared to creep in itself. Morrison, Mikael Forssell and Saints defender Fitz Hall (nicknamed 'One Size'... 'one size fits all'... I'll get my coat...) were all close by, but whether they got a touch or not is probably irrelevant, as Clemence will claim it.
Blues were now playing in full flow, inspired by Dunn. Hughes went close with a dipping effort from 25 yards, before Morrison tried his luck from a similar distance, only to be denied by Antti Niemi. Darren Purse also had a header cleared off the line following another Hughes corner. At the other end, Beattie struck a weak effort that was easy for Taylor, as Blues dominated. When it got towards half-time, Blues probably didn't want the whistle to come, as it meant their momentum they had been building up was lost.
Indeed, Blues started the second half slowly, and failed to get going in the way that they'd finished the opening period. Dunn was a little quieter, but still threatening. After one run, he was brought down on the edge of the area, and dusted himself down to take the free-kick himself, and force Niemi into a fingertip save at full stretch.
Blues finally got their breakthrough on 67 minutes, through free-scoring Kenna. Having scored one goal in nine years prior to Boxing Day, Kenna now has two in the last four league games. On this occasion, he played a good ball into Morrison in the inside left channel, and Morrison held the ball up well, turned his man, and fired the ball back across goal where Kenna's continued run resulted in him prodding the ball home from five yards.
Just two minutes later, Kenna was involved in another major incident, though on this occasion he was victim to a sickening challenge from David Prutton. The former Notts Forest man lunged into an aeriel challenge, and crunched his elbow into Kenna's face. Referee Steve Bennett had no choice but to dismiss Prutton, despite the ridiculous protests of the Southampton players. Such decisions don't necessarily need evidence, but if any was needed here, the fact that Kenna had to retire to the dressing room for a number of minutes for stiches only served to highlight the indiscretion.
Southampton tried to get an equaliser, but were always going to struggle being a man down. Most of their opportunites were coming from an uncharacteristically nervous performance by Taylor in the Blues goal. Just as one Saints old boy in Kenna had punished them, it seemed that another, in Taylor, was trying to gift them a point. He was reluctant to come for any crosses, and when he did come, on occasions, he missed the ball or dropped it. It was made all the more strange by a couple of crosses that he plucked out of the air with ease.
As you'd expect, Blues had their chances to finish Southampton off, but as you'd expect, with this being Blues, they wasted them. Johnson missed another great opportunity, before Forssell shot inches wide, and Morrison hit the crossbar after nicking the ball from in front of Niemi.
After a woeful first 5 or 6 minutes, Blues settled down and played well considering the injury problems currently infecting the club. Kenna was a model of professionalism with his performance, playing out of position, and after having been out in the cold for a number of months. Morrison too is beginning to show some real form alongside Forssell.
On a final note, Blues went through a fourth consecutive game without picking up a booking - a strange but pleasing statistic. Referees have come in for a lot of credit from yours truly lately, with their new approach, and today Steve Bennett continued the trend. Even though a red card was shown to Prutton, every referee on the planet would have made the same decision.
Blues 2 Southampton 1
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