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Fulham 0-1 Birmingham Cham 06 1617 - Birmingham Mail

last updated Monday 12th September 2016, 8:45 PM

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Brian Dick at Birmingham Mail

Fulham (0) 0-1 (0) Birmingham

For the second match running Birmingham City have reduced well-financed, well-fancied opponents to rubble.

Fulham have brought 14 new players to the Cottage this summer and the talk going into this match was that Slavisa Jokanovic had built a far more resolute team.

Gone are the mercurial individual skills of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele, instead this Fulham side is far more about collective strength. Or so the thinking went.

It takes time to integrate all those new signings - and it showed. Some of them started on the bench, some of them finished there. A team in transition unravelled.

But it didn’t unravel by accident, Blues tormented the hosts by not allowing them a minute’s peace and Fulham were reduced to less than the sum of their parts by the visitors’ constant harrying and hassling.

When they saw an opportunity Clayton Donaldson, Jacques Maghoma, Che Adams and David Davis absolutely flew at the man in possession in desperate pursuit of a turnover. Maikel Kieftenbeld and Robert Tesche weren’t far behind.

It was difficult to keep count of the number of times they actually stole the ball but as a rough guide Blues forwards won more tackles than their defenders.

That high pressure, high intensity pressing game was certainly key to the second penalty - Kieftenbeld picked Floyd Ayite’s pocket - and to Michael Madl’s red card, as Donaldson was on to Tomas Kalas’ sloppy pass in a flash.

It also created a nervousness about Fulham, who took more and more risks as they became penned into their own defensive third.

Goalkeeper David Button’s attempt at a double Cruyff turn on Donaldson being the most extreme example but Denis Odoi, Scott Malone, Madl and Kalas - they were all at it, panicking with one, sometimes two Blues’ players in their faces.

The situation only became worse when Jokanovic took off Matt Smith, who at 6ft 4ins was his team’s one easy route down the field.

In all honesty the home team had a bit of a meltdown - but it was Blues who were turning up the heat.

The result of all Birmingham’s efforts was a host of clear cut goal-scoring chances and if there is a criticism, it’s that only one was converted.

Donaldson should certainly have opened the scoring but missed a 26th minute penalty. His spot-kick wasn’t anything like as weak as the one at Wigan but a miss is a miss, it was side-footed and gave Button a chance.

Before then Ryan Shotton should have done better with Maghoma’s corner but he allowed the ball to skim off his brow and past the post from ten yards.

Four minutes before Donaldson’s indiscretion Jonathan Spector followed up an intelligent interception with a clinical through-ball which looked to have put Adams in.

Unfortunately for the youngster the ball skidded away on the wet turf and he could only snatch at a weak shot as the angle worsened.

Donaldson made amends four minutes into the second period - and team orders or not he took a massive risk by insisting on a second attempt from the spot. Thankfully this time he hammered his penalty hard and straight.

Seconds later Maghoma nicked the ball off Odoi and won himself a free kick 20 yards out. The DR Congo winger has assumed responsibility for set-pieces in David Cotterill’s absence and his drive flew just past the upright.

Cotterill himself showed a lack of conviction when he was put through near the end, although after Button had saved his weak attempt he did set-up Maghoma for a twisting volley which was brilliantly headed off the line by Kalas.

All of which meant the scoreline wasn’t as emphatic as it had been against Norwich - but the demolition job was.

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