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Match Report: Bolton v Birmingham

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Birmingham City came to The Reebok needing at least a point to ensure their Championship survival... it resulted in fairly dramatic scenes

Paul Thomas

So it was the last ever game at The Reebok Stadium, as we know it, and Birmingham City needed at least a point and for Leicester to beat Doncaster in order to stay in the Championship for another year.

There was one change to the Bolton side that ran out 3-1 winners over Sheffield Wednesday last week, with Andy Lonergan covering for the presumably injured Adam Bogdan. Lee Clark, on the other hand, made three changes to his team after their 1-0 loss to Wigan in midweek, with former white Paul Robinson, Callum Reilly and Nikola Zigić replacing Mitch Hancock, Scott Allan and some what surprisingly, Federico Macheda.

The teams made their way on to the pitch for the last game of the season to that epic piece of music, and the game got underway.

The match got off to a rather tentative start, with neither team able to carve out any real opportunities early on; but the Birmingham side, clearly aided by their fans' excellent support, started to dominate proceedings.

The first chance of the game fell to Blues striker Lee Novak, but he was unable to get a pivotal touch on Paul Caddis' fizzed ball across the six yard box.

Bolton did reply and nearly went ahead, Rob Hall's cross across the face of goal was nearly diverted into his own net by Tom Adeyemi, as he cleared over the bar with Beckford lurking. Which was followed by the trademarked Beckford thumb up.

The game continued at a lulled pace, and I've got to say, it was pretty dire to watch.

Birmingham continued to press, with their brightest player Chris Burke who managed to create an opportunity for himself with some great work, but his deflected effort hardly worried Lonergan.

Rob Hall then saw a free kick go narrowly wide of the right hand post, which left Randolph in the Birmingham goal scrambling to the bottom corner, and was a lot better than his previous efforts from set pieces in the game.

More trickery from Burke down the right wing resulted with the ball at Novak's feet, 15 yards from goal, he attempted to bend the ball into the bottom corner but Lonergan was on hand to expertly divert the ball around the post.

The half wore on in a similar vein, with Bolton really struggling to get any grasp on the game, with wayward passes, the unusually bad Neil Danns and the frustrating Jermaine Beckford being the main culprits.

It even looked as if Birmingham had taken a deserved lead nearing on halftime, Novak had tapped in a Zigić knock down, after Caddis somehow managed to find the 6'8" frontman with a free kick, but the referee had already blown up for a foul, with the big Serb being the perpetrator.

Birmingham continued to pressure the Bolton defence, but it held resilient to their attacks ensuring that the half concluded with the score level.

Birmingham continued to dominate in the second half, but much like the first, were unable to create any clear-cut chances in the opening minutes. Their best opportunity falling to Caddis, after yet another Zigić knock down, but he was unable to muscle his way past the magnificently bearded Matt Mills.

Bolton then even threatened to get in the game themselves, Jermaine Beckford broke free of the Birmingham defence, but as he closed in on the goal, the ball somehow ended up behind him and the ball was hacked away. But good effort Jermaine *thumb up*.

After being completely dominated for nearly an hour however, the Whites made good of those threats. Hall's free kick bounced off of David Wheater and the ball landed in the path of Lee, who fired the ball into the goal and nudged the visitors closer to the edge.

Jordan Ibe and Macheda were immediately introduced in the after math of the goal, with the former almost instantly being involved. With the on-loan Liverpool youngster pulling the ball back for Novak, time seemed to slow down as the striker waited to get the ball under control, when he finally did he hit the shot on the half volley agonisingly wide of the post.

Just as the Birmingham fans began celebrating Leicester obviously taking the lead against Doncaster, filling them all with hope; Lukas Jutkiewicz hit the sucker punch and his seventh goal for Bolton, with his shot from an acute angle beating Randolph at his near post.

But in no later than two minutes, in true Bolton fashion, Birmingham had a life line. Zigić towered over David Wheater, who'd had an excellent game, and headed into the bottom corner, sending the Birmingham fans into delirium, "one goal, we only need one goal" they sang, everyone could sense it.

As Birmingham poured men forward, the Trotters caught them on the break twice and should have put the game to bed. Substitute Andy Kellet broke with lightening speed on both occasions, firstly going to his left to Jutkiewicz, whose effort was saved by Randolph and then smashed out for a corner. On the second occasion the ball fell to Neil Danns, but with goal gaping he could only fire it high over the bar.

The board went up indicating there were to be six minutes of injury time. Six.

Birmingham through everything forward, even Paul Robinson, as they continued to look for the goal that would keep them in the Championship. Three minutes into injury time. They got the goal they deserved.

Ibe's cross resulted in a scramble in the box, Macheda's header was batted away, Zigić's header was cleared off the line by Ream, but as the American tumbled over the grounded Lonergan he couldn't do anything but watch as Paul Caddis, the man who Birmingham fans seemed most annoyed about starting the game, nodded into the empty net.

Scenes.

The fans behind the goal went batshit mental, blue smoke bombs were going off, the substitutes were on the pitch, Caddis was off waving his shirt about like a mad man. It was sensational. I couldn't help but stand there and applaud.

Bolton half rallied and attempted to go for a winner, but it came to no avail as the full time whistle blew with Birmingham City remaining as a Championship club. Lee Clark ran straight into the traveling fans, who stuck with their team right until the end and deserved everything they got to see.

I can't explain how amazing it was to witness all of that, purely as a fan of football.