Boro Give Garry Monk the Blues
By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 07 Mar 2018 12:51:00
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Boro's play off push continued with a battling win at St Andrews last night. The fact that it turned out to be Garry Monk's first game in charge of Birmingham City added extra spice but he and Birmingham would be left frustrated as Boro dug in deep in the second half to defend Patrick Bamford's goal. At the end of a long, long night we left the Midlands sitting pretty in sixth place. A big night for Boro.

We don't usually have much to sing about when we play away at Birmingham. I can remember very few Boro wins at St Andrews over the years but rather a great deal of defeat and heart ache. Last time we were here, we left the stadium worrying that our Friday night draw would not be good enough and that we could have blown our promotion hopes. I didn't want to be leaving the away stand worrying that we had dipped out of the play offs this time around.

Boro were forced to make a change with Ben Gibson skippering the side in place of the suspended and injured Grant Leadbitter. Adam Clayton stepped in and stepped up and you never had any doubt he would give everything for the cause.

Boro were bolstered by two on form players. With six goals in three games Patrick Bamford cannot stop scoring and that was to continue last night. Playing a big part in that success is Adama Traore, today unveiled as PFA Championship Player of the Month. Although marked tightly last night he still provided the centre for the one decisive goal. Assists and goals are now what he deals in.

Birmingham came into this game on the back of an alarming 5 match run of defeats. But the new manager seemed to have given them a real boost as they came at us early on. Jota, in particularly was very lively. Former Boro centre forward, Lucas Jutkiewicz was a real handful, a big physical presence.

Former Birmingham keeper, Darren Randolph made several notable stops, coming for the ball and catching it or sticking out a strong hand to divert shots around the post. But in general our defending was very sound and gave us a base to mount our own raids forward.

Bamford was at the heart of our best efforts before the break, he went close himself and also laid off the ball in the box for Mo Besic. The Everton midfielder was a real bright spark again throughout.

Boro's break through came with half time fast approaching. Traore's corner was cleared but only back to the winger his second attempt caused chaos and Bamford showed a striker's instinct to react first and hook the ball into the net from close range.

The goal was right down in front of the Boro corner and so we were all able to celebrate together. The second half saw Birmingham kicking in our direction and as we withdrew deeper and deeper all the action was again in front of us. It meant we were all living on our nerves. That goal was a big blow to the home team and immediately exposed a few raw edges. There were more misplaced passes and hopeful, hopeless punts forward as the confidence was stripped away again.

To his credit Garry Monk did get the Brum motors re started at half time. Boro withdrew deep into our own half. I presumed we were playing to instructions, until I heard Tony Pulis comments after the game. The second half seemed to last for ever as we counted down the minutes on the digital clock on the big screen as Boro defended too deep.

Ayala was an absolute tower of strength. He never put a header or carefully timed tackle wrong. Head and shoulders the Man of the Match, ably assisted by the rest of the defenders. There was virtually no respite in that long, long second period.

One of the few breakaways was from sub Martin Cranie (on for Ryan Shotton) his centre just evaded fellow sub Britt Assombalonga and sadly Downing and Besic fluffed their lines at the back post.

But unlike at Sunderland Boro kept their shape and discipline throughout. With the Boro end singing Tony Pulis red and white army we resisted the Blues and Garry Monk and pulled off another big, big win on the road.

Now we are in the play off positions we can fight tooth and nail to stay there. Lets keep the run going on Saturday v Barnsley. Keep on pushing for the Play Offs.

Birmingham 0-1 Boro – Patrick Bamford

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