Deep into stoppage time everything looked perfect; a 3-2 lead with just about a minute to go and then what should have been a reasonably quick journey home to East Lancashire. Then came the hand or arm of Federico Macheda followed by those diversions and then, just to put the tin lid on it all, a dense fog that made the return journey more like the long and winding road.
Up to that late goal the day really had gone well. It was a trouble free trip down, including an enjoyable refreshment stop. We were at St. Andrew's in good time and I'd even managed the journey from car to ground without the aid of the crutches that have been helping me get about for the last six weeks.
Fellow Clarets were, as expected, still talking about the events of Sunday, as we took our seats behind the goal with news coming in, and almost shock news at that, of a team change. Sean Dyche had opted to start with Ross Wallace with Michael Kightly dropping to the bench.
|A first goal since Boxing Day 2012 for Michael Duff|
In a scrappy opening we did look the better side and Tom Heaton, right in front of us, was having very little to occupy him with most of the play going towards the Birmingham goal. Down at the far end, it has to be said, we didn't create too much in terms of clear chances and the closest we came were from a couple of snap shots.
Chris Burke always looked likely to be the biggest threat for the home side. He's a decent player but I thought we played him well all night and he didn't give us the sort of concerns he's done in some games previously.
I thought we just needed a goal and on the half hour that's exactly what we did get. A Wallace cross from the right was headed back across goal by a home defender and that left Dean Marney with the simple task to score from close range.
Marney goals have become like the X43 bus service. We waited ages for one and now three have come at once. He got the first goal in the 3-1 win against Millwall, followed that up with the second as we beat Derby 2-0 and now this.
Incredibly it was Marney who came closest to adding to the lead in the remaining quarter of an hour of the first half, but his shot was blocked. We'd dominated that last period and went in with a 1-0 lead and to be honest I thought we'd already done enough because I couldn't see Birmingham getting a goal. How little I know.
Nothing much changed up the hour mark. We were very much the better side but then both teams made substitutions. Macheda replaced Olly Lee for Birmingham on the hour and two minutes later we introduced Junior Stanislas for Wallace.
All of a sudden the game went goal crazy with three scored in five minutes leaving the scores level at 2-2.
Firstly Birmingham hit a free kick from around the half way line into the box. We just didn't deal with it and the ball dropped for Macheda to score.
It was all to do again but we did it and were back in front three minutes later with a real rarity that is known as a Michael Duff goal. In what was his 286th league appearance this was just his seventh league goal for the Clarets, and his first since Boxing Day 2012.
We won a soft looking free kick, one that Birmingham contested which led to referee James Linington allegedly mocking Brum captain Paul Robinson. Kieran Trippier took it for Duff to get up beyond the far post and head the ball back across goalkeeper Darren Randolph before going into a celebration to match his Wembley dance.
At that point I really did think we'd won it. Any confidence struggling Birmingham might have got from their equaliser would surely now have been completely flattened by our quick response. Not so, two minutes later we got a ball clear but only to Emyr Huws who fired home from distance and we were back level again.
We really went looking for a third and should have got it. Both Stanislas and Scott Arfield missed chances, Sam Vokes put one wide and we even coped with the loss of Danny Ings to an ankle injury with fifteen minutes to go.
Barnes came on and did well as we pushed on for a third and when it came in the 86th minute I thought that was surely it. Stanislas did really well down the left to win the ball and get into space. His low cross was perfect for Vokes who scored at the near post.
Surely that was it. Lee Clark had sent on Nikola Zigic and we knew there would be a bombardment to come. We countered that by introducing David Edgar once we had a lead to protect and we seemed to be dealing with the barrage of balls into the box comfortably.
Then came the last one. It was hard to see what had happened from the other end but what we did see was the Birmingham players celebrating a third equaliser and the Burnley players chasing referee Linington.
The news soon came through that Macheda had handled the ball into the goal and it certainly looks that way from the footage I've seen since.
What is it with Birmingham? Two seasons ago we conceded a stoppage time winner scored by Burke, last season Zigic equalised in the 89th minute and now this.
Dyche admitted we weren't at our best but it was still a game we should have won. You can't win every game and we've lost none of the lead we had on the chasing clubs this midweek with Derby also drawing and QPR going down at Brighton.
And we've now hit 70 points which is a terrific achievement from 35 games.
I've no problems with it at all and some of the negativity on the message board really did take some believing.
What I had real problems with was the journey home. Two M6 closures, shockingly signed diversions that at one point had us going round a roundabout three times (I bet there are still people trying to work out which way to go) and then, when we were finally clear the fog turned the journey home into a complete nightmare.
And then some clown phoned me at 7:45 a.m. to end any hopes of a lie in.
Four points from two away games with three of the points coming at Ewood - does anyone seriously think that's not been a good return on the back of the home wins against Forest and Derby?
Leeds next and then a free pint with the chairman ahead of the Charlton game at the Princess of Wales in Blackheath. Life remains very good as a Claret.
The teams were;
Birmingham: Darren Randolph, Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood, Paul Robinson, Tyler Blackett, Olly Lee (Federico Macheda 60), Tom Adeyemi, Emyr Huws, Chris Burke, Lee Novak, Andy Shinnie (Nikola Zigic 79). Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Aaron Martin, Jordon Ibe, Paul Caddis, Albert Rusnak.
Yellow Cards: Olly Lee, Paul Robinson.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield (David Edgar 90+2), Dean Marney, David Jones, Ross Wallace (Junior Stanislas 62), Danny Ings (Ashley Barnes 75), Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, Michael Kightly, Keith Treacy.
Yellow Card: Jason Shackell.
Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight).
Attendance: 16,695 (including 1,593 Clarets).