By James Burch
Neil Lennon got his first win as Bolton Wanderers manager dragging Blues ever closer to the Championship relegation zone after a Matt Mills header in the first half took Bolton off the bottom of the table and made sure Lee Clark have now lost three in a row at St. Andrews.
Blues started of the game with a good deal of confidence after recent good performances against Millwall and Charlton and played the early exchanges of the game well, playing some good football in the middle of the pitch.
Birmingham City had the first real chance of the game through a David Cotterill free kick that agonisingly grazed the cross bar. In the build up to the set piece, Demarai Gray burst through and was about to shoot but was cynically pulled back, however the free kick flicked off the bar and the scores for the time being stayed level.
However as they have done so many times this year, they threw away all of their hard work in the 19th minute when a powerful Mills header put Lennon`s new side on their way to a second win of the season. A right wing corner swung in by former Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing saw Bolton centre back connected with the ball and the ball flew past the flailing Randolph into the back of the net.
With Bolton firmly in the ascendancy for the most of the half, they quietened the home crowd early on and with the firepower of Jermaine Beckford upfront Birmingham always had to be on their toes. Gray who seemed to be one of the only bright sparks for Lee Clark`s men in the first fourty five came close just before the break. A dynamic run across the pitch from the 18 year old led him to the edge of the area, Gray fired a powerful strike at Bolton`s goal and it took an amazing save by Andy Lonergan to take Bolton into half-time one up.
Half-Time – Birmingham 0 – 1 Bolton Wanderers
Birmingham came out for the second half rejuvenated and started the second half with more vigour and fight. Hot shots Gray and Arthur nearly combined to get Birmingham back on level terms when Arthur tried to direct his header towards goal but the ball went wide of the net.
Arthur again went close with twenty minutes of the game to go and his effort summed up Birmingham`s day and even Lee Clark`s Blues career as the forward fired high and wide over when he should have done so much better. David Edgar fired a ball up field that was knocked down by Donaldson but the ball just didn`t sit up right for Arthur and the ball flew into row Z.
Blues were desperate not to lose once again at home, throwing numbers forward trying desperately to get the equalising goal attacking the Tilton Road End. Gray once again picked up the ball outside the box and from the minute the ball left his boot the crowd thought the ball was in. However Lonergan somehow tipped the ball over for a corner.
The game took a bizarre twist with ten minutes to play as Blues went down to ten men. The ball looked like it was seemingly going nowhere but a poor Paul Caddis back pass put Craig Davies of Bolton clear threw on goal and Randolph dragged him down getting himself sent off meaning as Blues had made all three subs that Lee Novak would have to go in goal for the subsequent penalty.
Novak stood in the net and the change of keeper must have put Bolton striker Davies off as he fired the ball miles over the bar giving Blues the last five minutes to push for that all important goal to equal the scores.
On a day with little to cheer about for the 15,000 plus crowd, having Novak in goal for the final minutes of the game led to great cheers after every goal kick and the midfielder even looked comfortable when his goal was peppered by a thirty yard strike from Spearing.
Blues really should have had a penalty in the dieing minutes of the game but a Gray shot bounced up sharply and hit goal scorer Mills on the hand but the referee waved away Birmingham`s appeals and the game ended with jeers and boos aimed at Lee Clark who is now under immense pressure with his side now 21st in the league only one point above the bottom three.
Bolton Sink Birmingham
By James Burch