Britt Blast Means Boro Sink Brum
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 13 Jan 2019 11:42:00
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Boro won the battle of St Andrews after Britt's cool finish broke Brum hearts just as they had clawed their way back on to equal terms. Boro were deservedly ahead at half time, Lewis Wing's finish reward for a dominant display. But after the break Monk's team drove Boro back and gradually wore us down until we cracked. Britt's breakaway and lob over Lee Camp broke Blue hearts.

Never an easy place to go, St Andrews. We did beat the Blue side of Birmingham last season thanks to Patrick Bamford finish. That felt good to get one over on Garry Monk, our manager through half of that campaign. But now Bamford has gone and Monk has revived Birmingham and after our faltering December we desperately need to kick on again. That means putting distance between ourselves and Garry Monk.

Birmingham is one of the few away matches in the country where there is ample street parking within minutes of the ground. The West Midlands is also unusual for the amount of clubs playing in their traditional, although much revamped grounds. There is nothing dated or jaded about the atmsphere at these places. It feels like the right kind of football experience.

Anyway, on to the football and Boro were again without Flint and Shotton but Lewis Wing started again and despite his goals against Posh Boro, Britt Assombalonga would have to settle for coming on off the bench with Jordan Hugill returning as lone striker. But this was a battle and Hugill certainly battled.

It was a bruising encounter from the start, there were head to heads, elbow to body and feet to feet all over the pitch. Former Boro forward Lukas Jutkiewicz went hammer and tongs with Daniel Ayala and as much as the home fans yelped at the referee it looked very much as if both players were engaged in an honest give and take struggle. The same might be said for Hugill at the other end as he picked himself up off the deck rubbing his head time and again.

The home fans were constantly off their seats moaning and berating the referee but if anything they were lucky to only pick up one and not multiple yellows for a serious of late tackles in midfield. They were trying to make it a midfield minefield as they were fast losing control in the centre of the park.

In general however Boro were first to every second ball, snapping at home players ankles and punting the ball quickly forward exposing spaces within the Blues ranks. We carved out almost all the chances before the break. Saville was getting behind them on the right and combining well with Hugill to set up the forward. Every Boro player was working so hard and as a well drilled unit.

There was one amazing flurry where Boro seemed certain to score but Blues players threw themselves into the path of not one but three Boro missiles, the last at point blank range from Dael Fry.

But the opening goal soon followed and it was a superb move. Howson swept the ball down the flank to where Dael Fry was flying forward. Fry whizzed over a cross and Lewis Wing met it at the back post to convert. 1-0 to Boro. Totally deserved for a dominant display. But could Brum be as dire in the second period?

Answer no. The home side brought on a sub. They reorganised and no doubt after a tongue lashing from Garry Monk they were suddenly on the ball and into the man. Jota, a player Birmingham beat us to signing from Brentford, started to take control of the middle leaving a tiring Besic in his wake. Boro were pegged back deep in our box unable to get the ball clear. We were clinging on as Brum piled on the pressure, including a penalty shout that was actually a dive with a yellow card brandished. Yet still we couldn't break out and turn the tide.

Downing came on for Besic, by now a virtual passenger. Britt came on for Hugill, who had run himself into the ground, his head no doubt sore from bouncing off elbows. But despite the changes we were still struggling to re enter the contest.

Then Birmingham scored. In truth it had looked pretty inevitable in that one way traffic. But it took a skilful finish all the same to break through the resolve of the defence and Clayton's midfield screen. With the home fans baying for blood, there was now the very real worry we might actually see a complete turn around in the game's scoreline.

Instead it was a sign for Boro to charge out of defence and go at Brum again. We were stung and hurt but also cool and calm when Lewis Wing sent Britt free through the centre. Lee Camp had already spilled one ball moments before and the Boro forward waited for the Brum keeper to commit before lobbing the perfect finish over him and into the roof of the net. It was right down in front of the away fans and how we all celebrated.

There were about ten long minutes and stoppage time to hang on. Initially Birmingham were stunned but gradually they began to launch themselves back at us. But we dug in and held on for a fantastic three points. Who believes in the post festive slump, certainly not Tony Pulis.

Come on Boro and Up The Boro

Birmingham City 1-2 Middlesbrough – Wing, Britt

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