Cheltenham Town recorded a 1-0 victory over Birmingham City this afternoon courtesy of a Harry Hooman opener.
The central defender bundled the ball over the line on 12 minutes and Cheltenham stood firm against a barrage of attacks throughout the game thanks to a superb goalkeeping display from Scott Brown. The Cheltenham number one was easuly man of the match but Hooman and Penn certainly impressed.
The first home friendly of the 2012-13 season and Cheltenham's opponents Birmingham City decided to pick what looked like a full strength side here this afternoon. Players such as Davies, Mullins, Ambrose and King would all pose a major threat but Peter Lovenkrands was the draw today making his first appearance in a Blues shirt since joining the club from Newcastle United. Cheltenham Town named a strong side too but were missing Darryl Duffy with the Scot feeling sore after a hard week worth of pre-season training at the camp in Wales. Harry Hooman also joined Steve Elliott in the middle of defence with Alan Bennett
left on the bench. It was also the first time Sam Deering and Billy Jones have played in front of the new club's home supporters.
It was also the first time Cheltenham Town wore their brand new home kit which maintains the club's traditional colour of Ruby but holding a unique design which will be used for the next two years.
We got underway here at the Abbey Business Stadium and Birmingham City had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down within two minutes after Lovenkrands was well challenged by Jones in the area but the referee saw a strong challenge and Birmingham's news striker made no argument. The Robins coped well with Birmingham in the opening stages of this game and enjoyed decent possession with the midfield three linking up well but it was the Blues with the first opportunity on goal. Carr's long cross could have found Marlon King but Jombati headed clear for a corner. The set piece was dropped in at the back post but Blues defender Ibanez put his header wide.
All in all Mark Yates would have been happy with his team's start and he was even happier on the 12th minute when a menacing Cheltenham attack led to a Harry Hooman goal. The ball was originally fired in by Goulding but it was well blocked. Hooman was able to pick up possession and scrambled it in over the line past Doyle. 1-0 and really impressive pressure play by the Robins. Birmingham almost let McGlashan and Mohamed through on goal following a defensive mishap between Davies and Ibanez but it was the Blues who pushed forward and narrowly missed an equaliser after Ambrose's curling effort flew past Brown's post. The Robins number one was called into action soon after when a Darren Ambrose freekick evaded everyone but the head of Elliott forcing it towards goal and Brown was forced to push it wide of goal with a superb save. The Blues were settling into the game and Marlon King saw a thunderous effort fly wide on 23 minutes. Surely it was only a matter of time before the Championship side found an equaliser? Lovenkrands came close when he found acres of space in the Robins area but his header was over the bar. Cheltenham were standing firm but the Blues were starting to take control.
Birmingham's best chance of the first half came from their captain Stephen Carr. The right back picked up on a clever pass by Burke and flew down the right wing before cutting into the area and firing a low drive in at goal but Scott Brown made a tremendous save to deny the equaliser once again. It started to become a personal battle between both Carr and Brown because the Cheltenham number one once again denied the defender with a strong save from his viscous strike on 33 minutes. Brown was having a very good game and it was needed with a constant Blues barrage at this point. Chris Burke had a decent run at Cheltenham's defence on 38 minutes but his eventual shot was allowed to drop wide of goal by Brown as the Blues continued to try and find an answer to a stubborn defensive performance from Brown and his four defenders.
A Curtis Davies missed header, a yellow card for Steve Elliott and a fantastic save by Scott Brown from Murphy's freekick signalled the end of the first half and an impressive lead for the Robins.
Half Time: Cheltenham 1-0 Birmingham
The Blues made two changes at the break with Morgaro Gomis and Nikola Zigic replacing Wade Elliott and Peter Lovenkrands respectively. The Robins started well and were denied to rather blatant fouls on McGlashan and Mohamed in the early stages but the referee was having none of it. The referee was once again involved when he showed a yellow card to Harry Hooman for a perfectly good strong challenge on Zigic. That was two yellow cards issued in a pre-season friendly for rather pointless reasons. Birmingham were pushing on and Zigic forced a low save from Brown when he picked up on Burke's low cross. Cheltenham had a penalty turned down five minutes in when Steve Elliott appeared to be pushed in the box when going for the corner but the referee waved play on much to the disgust of the home support.
The Birmingham fans were getting frustrated with Cheltenham's composure on the ball and their stubborn defending but it could have been worse for the visitors when Billy Jones forced Doyle into making a save from his 25 yard freekick. Birmingham were getting frustrated and that could be translated from the 1,665 Blues fans who were getting louder and louder with every chance wasted. They did have a good opportunity to force the issue on 63 minutes though but Darren Ambrose's central freekick was blasted well over the bar. Birmingham reacted by bringing Lee Naylor and Nathan Redmond on for David Murphy and Chris Burke respectively and young winger Redmond almost made an instant impact with a looping effort from the wing but Brown was comfortable letting the shot drop over his goal.
Scott Brown was on hand again to deny Marlon King when the striker broke away from Steve Elliott moments before both sides made numerous changes. Cheltenham introduced Lowe, Andrew and Plummer at the expense of Elliott, Jones and McGlashan respectively. Birmingham too kKing off for Rooney and new signing Mullins was withdrawn for Darren Carter. Those changes added an extra dimension to a game which was now weighted in Birmingham's favour. Bagasan Graham replaced Jeff Goulding on 77 minutes allowing Tristan Plummer to move up front.
Youth team midfielder Joe Hanks replaces Russ Penn a few minutes before 90 and the youngster made an instant impact shepherding the ball away from Gomis with great strength on the edge of the area. Birmingham's last chance of the game came past 90 minutes when Carter was fouled 20 yards from goal. Redmond fired his freekick in but it was poor, blocked by the wall and cleared by Hanks to the tune of the full time whistle.
Full Time: Cheltenham 1-0 Birmingham
Cheltenham Town FC (4-5-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Hooman, Elliott (C) (Lowe 72), Jones (Andrew 72); McGlashan (Plummer 72), Pack, Deering (Hibbert 83), Penn (Hanks 87), Mohamed; Goulding (Graham 77)
Subs not used: Reaney (GK), Bennett
Birmingham City FC (4-4-2): Doyle (GK); Carr, Ibanez, Davies, Murphy (Redmond 63); Burke (Naylor 63), Mullins (Carter 72), Elliott (Gomis 46), Ambrose (Asante 81); King (Rooney 72), Lovenkrands (Zigic 46)
Subs not used: Lucas (GK), Packwood, Deaman, Jervis
Referee: Mr. Phil Gibbs
Attendance: 2,636 (1,665 from Birmingham)
Robins Star Man: Scott Brown - It seemed Browny was intent on doing his best Superman impression again today. He was excellent as was Harry Hooman.