The Euro-Countdown

Andy Munro reports on Blues’ midweek European adventure.

If anything it was more stressful being in Brum as opposed to Slovenia. In my case the decision not to travel was because I’ve opted for a Bruges and Braga away double instead – the housekeeping money only stretches so far. Initially, not knowing which TV channel the game was on, I tried to find a local pub showing the match. Popping into my two locals in Hollywood – the Packhorse and the White Swan – the answer was a decidedly sniffy negative which made me amused when, in truth, their usual clientele would make a gypsy encampment seem like a suburb of Cheltenham. Anyway I finally established it was free on ESPN Classic, which was a result both in terms of being able to watch it free at home while discovering a channel showing some epic boxing and soccer matches.

Blues started by playing just one up front and started off  fairly brightly although Maribor – who let’s not forget have seen off Scots Premier ‘giants’ Celtic and Rangers, came more into the game. Doyle pulled off a brilliant one handed save and just as I was congratulating myself on my judgement that he was better than Myhill, he committed a howler of Enkelmann proportions. In fairness it wasn’t helped by a very dodgy backpass from Spector. It was a simple matter for their forward to ease the ball home with an anguished Doyle helpless following his air kick; I imagined Villa fans  laughing their proverbial socks off and rolling around on their carpets with glee at the usual tale of Bluenose misfortune.

We increasingly struggled after that and David Pleat –always a perceptive commentator – made the point that if you only play one up front, even with two wingers, you need an option coming from central midfield. Unfortunately we had an anonymous Fahey, a neat but lateral Gomes and an advanced Elliot with no real pace.

Still, in Chrissy Hughton we trust, and eventually we made a breakthrough when typically cool play from Marlon King let in Chris Burke who tricked his way into a scoring position to net an equaliser. Even better, after a substitution with Ziggy coming on, the pattern of play further changed and Elliot should have scored. However he finally did with the Maribor keeper spilling the ball. Ziggy continued to cause chaos and Blues ended up worthy winners.

In a noisy stadium, the Blues fans made a telling contribution in cheering the lads to victory and KRO rang loud and clear – the stuff that dreams are made of. A great result and a Europa League monkey off our backs with our first league win. Hey, this foreign football lark is a piece of cake.