What a night. Whether you were at St Andrews or elsewhere, this was one of those nights that you won`t forget in a very long time. We had the Old Gold in our back yard and we taught them a lesson in how to play to win. A fantastic performance full of determination, vigour, pride and passion left Wolves shocked and reeling.
Immediately from the outset you got the idea that Monday 6th April would be a special day. The old entrance music was back and the crowd were up for the fight. From the off, the nerves were channelled expertly by the experienced heads in the Blues side who marshalled play brilliantly whilst providing a calming influence for the rest of the team to follow.
While the crowd were on edge, they did their all to get behind the side, and their effort off the stands was more than matched by the effort provided by the team. They chased every loose ball and every time a player in the gold and black touched the ball, there was always a man in blue on his back.
Such high quality pressure was expertly on show thanks to a combination of Carr and Seb Larsson who kept on chasing the Wolves left winger and then the left back, and this led to a fantastic chance for Jerome after a lacklustre pass-back, and Jerome really should have scored but his control was poor and a resultant snap shot went harmlessly wide of Wayne Hennessey`s goal. However, Wolves also had their own chances with Iwelumo among the players who had a clear sight of goal.
Then, after 36 minutes, disaster struck, but whether it was a disaster for Blues or Wolves is not entirely clear. Lee Carsley went in for a tackle but he was woefully late, catching Iwelumo square on the knee in a challenge which could well have broken the striker`s leg. Of course, Carso is not a malicious, dirty player, and this idea was reinforced by testimonies provided not only by both managers but also by Iwelumo himself. However, the ref was left with little choice but to award a red card and there were no complaints from those in royal blue.
However, the red card seemed to affect Wolves more than Blues as the 10 men just upped their work rate. Understandably, 4 minutes were added on at the end of the first half and it was the third minute which proved to be crucial. A ball floated into the box by Carr was headed on by both Rahdi Jaidi and Liam Ridgewell and then Cammy struck.
The ball bounced and Jerome got in between Matt Hill and the keeper Hennessey. Jerome then outmuscled Hill turning it into a straight one-on-one battle between CJ and the keeper. Hennessey had one hand on the ball but he only pushed the ball onto Jerome`s chest, allowing the big man to tap the ball home, giving Blues a more than deserved half time lead.
Half time brought Alex McLeish a painstakingly hard decision to make, but it was one that had to be made – who would come off? And who would replace them? Jerome was having a more than impressive game but Super Kev was always likely to grab a goal. However, the pace and power of Jerome won the day and Super Kev was taken off. The decision of who was to come on was yet more intriguing. If McLeish wanted to sit back for 45 minutes and defend a 1-0 lead, Queudrue was your man with Murphy moving to left wing. However, if McLeish wanted to send a message of intent to Wolves, he would turn to James McFadden.
He chose Faddy.
The sight of the returning McFadden gave the crowd yet another boost as Blues continued in determined fashion. Wolves couldn`t get a look in and Blues players just seemed to be one step ahead of their local rivals. While the Blues rearguard looked strong, Wolves` defence was simply atrocious. Any ball over the top of the defence or through the middle seemed to scare both Craddock and Berra who struggled to get to grips with the pace and sheer power of Jerome and then the strength of O`Connor.
Wolves offered little and another failed attack led to a ball over the top which was met by Gary O`Connor who rounded the keeper to slot home, rounding off a fantastic night. The fans did the conga in the stands as the players battled to the end to keep the Wolves at bay.
It was a memorable night with some performances which will live long in the memory on the night when Blues propelled themselves towards the title. Jerome, who was substituted due to illness, had a brilliant game along with Seb Larsson on the right. McFadden looked bright when he came on. In comparison to the Wolves defence, the Dads Army defence provided strong and firm resistance to all that Wolves had to offer. Even at times when they were found lacking, their tenacity and strength made up for it.
This was most definitely a night to remember.
I said to a friend pre-match that ‘if we beat Wolves tonight, we will win the title.`
Mark my words.