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Saturday 19th November 2016 ko 15.00

EFL Championship

BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (Adams 81) Spector sent off (serious foul play) 90

BRISTOL CITY 0

Att 18,586 (1,774 away)

Entry to “Legends Lounge” meal, programme, tea, teamsheet- Complimentary

I’d hate to feel pigeon-holed as to the kind of football I watch. I like the idea of being able to do something as basic as Beesands Rovers or as grand as the opening game at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, or even as crazy as the Belgrade Derby. Why set parameters?

And let’s face it when a friend spots that my girlfriend Robyn is a Bristol City fan and offers two complimentary hospitality tickets it would be both churlish and stupid to turn down such a wonderful act of kindness.

And let’s face it, St Andrews is one the the UK’s big grounds, somewhere any self-respecting football fan ought to pay a visit. It’s been that way since the former Small Heath FC moved from Muntz Street to Cattell Road in 1906. This is the ground after all, of Gil Merrick, Bob Latchford, Trevor Francis, and more latterly Christophe Dugarry, although a lot has changed since my first visit in March 1993 for Oxford United’s usual defeat (1-0) here.

That was the final year for me to freeze on the huge Tilton Road terrace, a new wrap around stand replaced both it and the Kop a year later. I do still miss the 3-person flip-up bench seats in the old Railway End stand, that got replaced by the new stand in 1999 with the old main stand now a rather incongruous nod to the past. Our tickets included seats in the directors’ box in the Kop stand, but St Andrews is unusual in that the main stand also has a directors’ box!

And whilst it was far removed from my normal muddy fields it was a darned fine way to watch game. Because on one level, if you’ve got the wherewithal to do it it does make sense. St Andrews’ location means there’s very little parking so having a reserved spot is handy, and the traffic congestion means you’ll want to get there early, so why not have a meal at the club beforehand? Then having top notch seats with your programme thrown in is just logical isn’t it?

And we were treated to an excellent game of football. In boxing terms I’m sure the Bristol City fans will claim they should have won the bout on points, but for once the sponsors got the man-of-the-match correct. I normally assume they vote for the player they most want to meet , but in Birmingham keeper Tomasz Kusczak they picked the player who changed the game. He pulled off two extraordinary saves, one in the first half from a Tammy Abraham header, and in the second half from a Lee Tomlin free kick.

It kept a clean sheet for Che Adams to gleefully smash home a poorly defended corner late on and the only other significant talking point was the stoppage time dismissal of Jonathan Spector for a quite dreadful challenge on Tomlin.

Afterwards we waited in the bar for the traffic to clear, drinks were available for around 30 minutes after the game, before slowly wending our way back to Oxford. Now while as a footballing day out it was far removed from my normal experience as is possible, but it did and does make a lot of sense. That said, expect a return to the normal type of article next time!

 

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