Just 18 months ago, Birmingham City lifted the League Cup. Beating Arsenal at Wembley was some feat and was their first major trophy for almost 50 years. Fast forward a season and a half and Barnet are Blues’ first opponents in the road to Wembley. This, on paper, should have been a walk in the park, without meaning to disrespect Barnet. Lee Clark’s first competitive game in charge at St Andrews should be a convincing win.
It was the visitors from League Two, who have survived the drop to non-league on the final day of the last three seasons, who looked the brighter early on. Blues’ young American full back Will Packwood was having a torrid time of things against Barnet’s forward men. David Lucas was forced to make a few decent saves before the Bees had a goal ruled out for offside. Blues’ were certainly under the cosh. Debutants Darren Ambrose, Ravel Morrison, Hayden Mullins and Peter Lovenkrands, although steady, struggled to make a real telling impact.
The Londoners deservedly opened the scoring through Barbados born Jon Nurse just after the half hour mark. The Blues back-line was carved open, not for the first time, and found themselves a goal down. The lead was short lived, seven minutes to be precise before Blues levelled from the spot thanks to Marlon King after he had been fouled by Clovis Kamdjo.
In truth, Blues were lucky to be level at the break. The second half was a different story as Clark’s troops took the game to Barnet. Just four minutes after the break an Ambrose corner was eventually met by Steven Caldwell who thundered into the roof of the net.
Barnet had a few half chances but Blues’ defence seemed to have more solidity about them in the second period. The more Blues attacked, the more they looked like scoring. Ambrose marked his home debut with a gorgeous curling effort to make it 3-1. The game should have been over now, but with Birmingham, as fans have come to learn, you never know.
This half was the opposite to the first, the hosts meant business. Blues have been known, mainly by their own faithful, to be unable to kill teams off and doing things the hard way. This was not going to be one of them. Lovenkrands and Wade Elliott both put the game beyond doubt, if there was any, as Blues eventually stormed to a 5-1 victory and will be in the hat for the second round draw.
On the whole, it looked like an easy ride for them, but for large spells of the first half in particular, Barnet had Blues worried. Charlton are next at St Andrews for the opening Championship game of the season on Saturday, more of the same will do.
Blues (4-4-2) Lucas. Packwood. Davies. Caldwell. Murphy. Burke. Morrison. Mullins. Ambrose. Lovenkrands. King.
Subs- Elliott, Gomis, Redmond.
Unused- Doyle. Ibanez. Rooney. Zigic.
Attendance- 9,905 (383 away)