Peter Ramage out to be Birmingham hero again

 

It was the 59th minute of a game that had not yet lived up to its billing. Blackpool had taken a fortuitous lead on the stroke of half-time and came out all guns blazing; Matt Phillips beating left-back David Murphy before pulling the ball back to Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Six yards out, the striker had the goal at his mercy and half of Bloomfield Road was already celebrating. But Peter Ramage threw himself in front of the shot and saved a second goal. In moments like that, in play-off games, resolute defending can book a ticket to Wembley.

That is what Chris Hughton will be telling his Birmingham City players ahead of tonight's second leg. They did the hard work on Friday night by limiting the Seasiders to a solitary goal. With the intimidating atmosphere of a sold-out St Andrew's roaring them on, the Blues might be considered favourites. In the Championship they boast a home record second only to Southampton's and beat Ian Holloway's team 3-0 on New Year's Eve.

Ramage's block could be crucial. Why? Because once Holloway's attacking front four get ahead in a game, they smell blood. Just ask Leeds and Bristol City, both thumped for five this season.

"It was just one of those where you throw your body in and, hopefully, it comes off. Luckily enough, I blocked it," Ramage said yesterday. "In the first half Curtis Davies made three or four blocks, we all put our bodies on the line and it was a backs-to-the-wall effort. I don't think we played well at all, but we kept ourselves in it. We've given ourselves a great chance still with the second leg to come at home."

Birmingham may have agonised about keeping it tight before Friday night, but that does not even remotely register on Holloway's radar when mapping out his battle plan. He is more interested in talking up the impact his flying wingers, Phillips and Tom Ince, can have on the counter-attack.

"That lead we've got is good, because as it stands they now have to come out and that might leave some spaces for our attackers," the Blackpool manager said. "I mean our two young lads on the wings. I wouldn't want to face those two. Those lads are fast, they are direct, they have skill and they can score goals."

Both are likely to be courted by top-flight clubs this summer. Phillips, 21, was named in the Championship team of the season, while supporters say that Ince, 20, is the more consistent performer. Their interchange and roaming make marking them difficult.

"They have been superb in the second half of the season and the nice thing is that they are still learning every week and still improving," Holloway said. "They are brilliant to watch and I would pay to see them myself – that's the biggest compliment I can give them."

Comparisons have been drawn to Blackpool's play-off-winning side of two years ago, but without the likes of Charlie Adam, D J Campbell and David Vaughan, they are a different outfit, and with a measured attitude. As it stands, they are exactly where they were in 2010: away against fancied opposition, one goal ahead. That time it was Nottingham Forest. Blackpool won 4-3. If they are to face West Ham in the final on 19 May, they must use their new-found discipline and pick their moments to unleash the rapid youngsters.

Probable teams

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Doyle; Ramage, Ibanez, Davies, Murphy; Burke, N'Daw, Mutch, Redmond; King, Zigic.

Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Gilks; Eardley, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey; Angel, Ferguson; M Phillips, Dobbie, Ince; Taylor-Fletcher.

Referee C Foy.

TV Sky Sports 1.

Kick-off 7:45pm.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice