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Match Report

 

Posted Wed 22 Sep 10 at 12:19 PM

REPORT: BIRMINGHAM CITY 3 MK DONS 1

MK Dons were beaten but far from disgraced at St Andrew's, as Premier League Birmingham City ruthlessly ended their Carling Cup adventure.

Three goals in a devastating four-minute exhibition of top-flight finishing from Alex McLeish's Blues ensured there would be no third round upset in the second city - Alexander Hleb and Nikola Zigic registering their first goals for the midlands outfit to go with a peach from substitute Craig Gardner.

But Karl Robinson's Dons, playing in front of a magnificent 1,164 travelling supporters, produced a brave performance of quality and endeavour that deserved more than a comprehensive score-line suggested and bagged a merited consolation ten minutes from time courtesy of substitute Aaron Wilbraham.

Granted, Birmingham's comfortable cushion established during the first half afforded the visitors more room than they might have hoped to enjoy on a fortress unbreached for nearly a year. But the spirit and determination they showed to pass the football was admirable in the circumstances and few would have denied them Wilbraham's late strike. And had they made the most of chances created either side of the interval, they may even have threatened the unlikeliest of comebacks.

They'd started the game in promising fashion, compact in defence and tidy in possession before Angelo Balanta flashed over the bar after exchanging passes with Peter Leven 14 minutes in. But Birmingham, boasting nine changes from the weekend defeat to West Brom, were stirring and cooked up a remarkable spell that ended the game as a contest. The first blow was struck by Hleb, the Belarusian on loan from Barcelona, who effortlessly picked out the bottom corner after being fed by Jean Beausejou on the edge of the box.

Beausejour, making his full Blues debut, had been fortunate to escape the attentions of the sliding Danny Woodards on that occasion. But the Chilean showed his class just two minutes later, juggling over his marker inside the box before feeding Zigic to score from close-range - his first Blues goal since a summer move from Valencia. The Dons were dazzled and the game was truly put beyond them two minutes later through the classiest of strikes from substitute Gardner.

The former Aston Villa man was among those rested following his weekend efforts, but was forced into the action as a 23rd-minute replacement for injured Spaniard Michel. That Birmingham's three goals all came within five minutes of his introduction was not deceptive of his impact on proceedings, the Blues number eight underlining the advantage when he rifled superbly into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

The game was up for the visitors and they probably knew it, but those behind the goal in white, black and red deserved the wonderful effort that followed. Jabo Ibehre, left out of the side with a minor knock, was brought on for Balanta and very nearly gave Leven a sight of goal after heading down a Jermaine Easter cross.

Luke Chadwick escapes the attentions of Craig Gardner.   From the resulting Leven corner, Dean Lewington climbed to glance a header just past Maik Taylor's right-hand post. It was a revolt Birmingham hadn't expected and when Roger Johnson's slip allowed Ibehre to send Lewis Guy scampering in on goal, only a smart save from Taylor denied the winger pulling one back.

Lewington again rose to meet Leven's resulting corner, this time from the left, but nodded over the top. Trailing so heavily at the break was no reward for their first-half efforts, but Robinson's men refused to let their spirits be dampened.

Gary Mackenzie came on for his debut in defence during the second period, replacing Sean O'Hanlon, and looked a calm, assured presence with powerhouse strength - limiting Zigic to cameo contributions. Mark Carrington nearly reduced the arrears on 55 minutes, curling goalwards after being found by the excellent Luke Chadwick on the edge of the box, only for Taylor to claw out of his bottom-right corner.

With every attack they mounted, the travelling supporters urged them on, baying for the goal that would reward their outstanding commitment to flowing football. The visitors continued to give as good as they got, though Zigic should have extended the lead when he wastefully headed Stuart Parnaby's deep cross wide.

And the Dons' efforts were finally rewarded by substitute Wilbraham, who latched on inside the box after Ibehre had fought to win Guy's cross and smashed left-footed across Taylor. With just ten minutes remaining, it was never likely to spark a comeback.

But it gave those travelling supporters plenty to shout about, if the performance wasn't cause enough.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor; Parnaby, Jiranek, Johnson (c), Murphy; Hleb (Phillips 66), Fahey, Michel (Gardner 23), Beausejour (Valles 58); Derbyshire, Zigic.
Subs not used: Foster, Ridgewell, Jerome, Redmond. Goals: Hleb 24, Zigic 26, Gardner 28 MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Woodards, O'Hanlon (Mackenzie 46), Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Carrington, Leven; Guy, Chadwick, Balanta (Ibehre 29); Easter (Wilbraham 65).
Subs not used: Searle, G.Baldock, Howell, Chicksen.
Goals: Wilbraham 80
Attendance: 9,450 (1,164 away)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)

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