Sat 11 Apr 15
at 17:00 PM
The Report: Blues 2 Wolves 1
Blues came from behind to beat promotion hopefuls Wolverhampton Wanderers in a pulsating West Midlands derby at St. Andrew’s.
After an uneventful opening, there was action aplenty in an incident-packed 70 minutes. Benick Afobe fired the play-off chasing visitors in front but Gary Rowett’s men responded with a goal that was given to Rob Kiernan, although Jonathan Grounds’ initial shot had looked to have already crossed the line.
Blues clinched victory just after the hour mark and it was another moment to savour from 18-year-old starlet Demarai Gray. The young winger dispossessed Golbourne before crashing an unstoppable shot under Carl Ikeme’s body.
On-loan playmaker Diego Fabbrini impressed on his debut, playing in place of Andy Shinnie in the ‘number ten’ role, as one of four changes from the team that lost at Bournemouth. Kiernan took over from the suspended Paul Robinson at the heart of defence whilst Gray was preferred to Lloyd Dyer on the flanks. The final change saw one former Wolves man replace another as David Davis dropped to the bench with fit-again Stephen Gleeson favoured in the holding midfield role.
Fabbrini’s attempted cross veered goalwards and threatened to catch out Ikeme but the Wolves keeper backtracked quickly to grasp the ball on his goal line. Dominic Iorfa was also very fortunate not to concede a penalty when the ball clearly rolled down his arm as he attempted to take control of it inside the area.
That was about it for the first 20 minutes but then the game burst into life. Firstly good work from Clayton Donaldson set up Gray who ran through to the edge of the box and fired in a drive that flew straight into Ikeme’s midriff. That was the cue for a mad four minutes in which both sides scored.
Wolves went in front on 21 minutes when Nouha Dicko was allowed too much space inside the Blues area and he pulled the ball back to the unmarked Afobe to fire into an empty net.
Blues hit back almost immediately though. Wolves were unable to clear from a corner and the ball dropped to Grounds about ten yards out. The left-back’s half-volley was blocked but the ball appeared to have crossed the line before Kiernan applied the final touch.
The St. Andrew’s tannoy credited Kiernan but the TV replays may later show that it was his defensive colleague that’s the rightful recipient of the goal-scoring honour.
A tight and hard-fought start had transcended into a very open and end-to-end game. Robert Tesche was next to try his luck with a shot from a narrow angle that crashed into the side-netting to the left of Ikeme’s goal.
Darren Randolph had to be alert to dive down to his left and collect an instinctive 20-yard drive from Afobe, whilst at the opposite end Gray’s dangerous cross skidded across goal but no one in a blue shirt was able to apply the finishing touch.
Action swung again to the other end with Kevin McDonald letting fly with a 20-yard shot that only narrowly bounced wide of Randolph’s left-hand post.
The scores remained level at the break and after 15 minutes rest the players were ready to continue their hammer and tong approach to proceedings.
Wolves did most of the early pressing but found the Blues defence in stubborn mood and determined not to allow them a sight of goal. Instead it was Gray that was next to hit an on-target shot after the winger picked up the ball wide on the left and cut inside Iorfa, but his low effort didn’t have sufficient power to seriously trouble Ikeme.
The England U19 international was just warming up though because on 62 minutes he fired Blues into the lead with a goal that was all his own making. Picking up the ball inside the centre circle the teenager scampered towards the right wing.
Gray was eventually beaten to the ball by Scott Golbourne but wasn’t going to give up that easily. He put the Wolves left-back under pressure and proceeded to barge him fairly off the ball before racing goalwards and firing a low shot under Ikeme in clinical fashion.
Blues were forced into a change midway through the second-half as Kiernan went off with what appeared to be a hamstring niggle, but the hosts had a ready-made replacement in Jonathan Spector.
The home side pressed again with Gray giving the Wolves defence more problems. His cross into the box was eventually laid back by David Cotterill into the path of Gleeson but the midfielder’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Donaldson, who couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough. The big striker rapidly tried to make amends as he attempted to hook the boucing ball goalwards but his effort flew well over.
Fabbrini was always going to struggle to complete the full game and the lively Italian was replaced by Davis with three minutes left, departing the field to an enthusiastic standing ovation from an appreciative St. Andrew’s crowd. Gray also made way late for Dyer as Blues looked to run down the clock as the game entered four minutes of injury-time.
Blues comfortably saw out the game to secure a terrific derby-day win and mathematically seal their place in next season’s Sky Bet Championship.