Engineering works on the line around the Reading area meant that it would take over three hours to travel up to the game on the train and so it was I was forced into a lonely journey in the car. Will had family commitments and my boys were partying elsewhere so it was a case of needs must. I travelled up to Baginton and picked up Chris and Little Jack, out of quarantine now that his tonsils have been removed.
Following on from three excellent wins, the last one being a performance where for the first time this season, Blues had put together two halves of football worthy of a name against high flying Crystal Palace, we were feeling upbeat. I have to say that Chris was the most cautious of us predicting a 1-1 or 2-2 draw. Little Jack and I felt we would win. I guess that just shows how wrong you can be doesn’t it?
Normal service was resumed in this one I’m afraid. All the things that were right on Friday were wrong in the first half at the end of which we trailed 3-0 and the game was gone. True a spirited comeback occurred after the interval and Blues had enough chances to have won the game comfortably despite the dire score line at 45 minutes but a combination of abysmal defending and profligate wasting of gilt edged chances conspired in producing a 3-2 defeat that gave the illusion that Wolves won this match; they didn’t, Birmingham lost it!
Blues started brightly enough but after the first 10 minutes they allowed Wolves room to look up and pass instead of getting after them. I said this before and I’ll say it again; there was not enough tempo in our play until we were trailing miserably. Stephen Hunt scored from a rebound from a good save from Butland on 20 minutes. The keeper is entitled to better protection when he’s parried a fierce shot from David Davies from twenty yards. Who was tracking Hunt?
Wolves’ second was the worst; Davies again crossing the ball into our area had no one within yards of him. This all came about because Davies was allowed to receive the ball from a throw in with our defenders sleeping. You have to put pressure on the man with the ball and cut out crosses at source if at all possible. Professional footballers, even those of limited ability that populate the Championship will deliver telling crosses if given all the time in the world! The cross was a quality ball but where was the marking of Fat Boy Ebanks-Blake? A free header four yards out with three Blues defenders standing and admiring him will result in one outcome. I could have scored that goal despite my age and associated frailties.
Then a long ball over the top from David Davies yet again, Doyle gets the wrong side of his ball watching defender, Curtis Davies and is through. He is upended by Butland whom I felt was lucky to only see yellow despite the attentions of two defenders nearby. The defenders were near but realistically out of the frame to influence things. The only other thing that saved Butland was that Doyle was going wide of the target and his angle to shoot would have been greatly diminished by the time he had got past the keeper and controlled the ball once more. Nevertheless it was an appalling piece of defending and Ebanks-Blake dispatched the penalty for 3-0.
On the positive side, Blues did move the ball around nicely when they went forward but we relied too much on crossing into the box for Zigic and feeding into the knock downs. Whilst I am quite excited about the youthfulness of the Blues side largely forced upon us by a crippling set of injuries all season, it does mean we are not the biggest team in the world and apart from Zigic and Curtis Davies we lack height. Wolves are a big muscular team and it doesn’t take the intellect of Einstein to realise that launching the ball repeatedly into the penalty area where ex-Blue Roger Johnson gave an immense man of the match performance dealing with Zigic was unlikely to reap dividends. When we kept it on the floor as we did more in the second half we then looked as if we had the Wolves back four in a panic. Surely this was the way to win this game? The big Wolves defenders have the turning circles of a fleet of oil tankers and yet we spent too much of this game delivering the ball from deep rather than behind them. Shane Fergusson struck the post with a free kick with De Vries beaten and Blues should have had a penalty just before the break when Gorkss and Robinson climbed all over him right in front of the referee.
We were awarded a penalty of our own early in the second half as Thomas chased a ball that clipped the post from a Morrison overhead kick. We were to strike the woodwork for a third time just afterwards and it is on days like that that you know it is not going to be your day. Wes Thomas and Nathan Redmond missed gilt edged chances and Zigic failed to control the ball from a whipped in cross when well placed. Thomas was the worst culprit; he was unlucky to see a glancing header hit the post but got too much on an even better header just after. He also wasted an opportunity as he rounded the keeper after a daft back pass from the Wolves defenders but buried it into the side netting when any ball in front of the near post either scores or is tapped in by Zigic. Wolves could and should have been swept aside in a tsunami of attacks from Blues who increased the rate of play and pass and pressed in a way they did not do in the first period.. Unfortunately the second Blues goal, Wade Elliot following up his saved second penalty kick came too late to affect the result. Fifteen minutes earlier and I believe Birmingham would not only have equalised but won; it was that kind of game.
This match was a biopic of our season at St Andrews; a good half and a bad half. It is maddening that we continually allow teams like Barnsley, Ipswich, Hull, Millwall and now Wolves to build up leads against us that give us a mountain to climb. No disrespect, but the Championship is the most mediocre I can remember for years and Wolves are where they are because they have been below average in that mediocre group. We have no business allowing teams like that to come to St Andrews and take liberties. Over the whole match Blues didn’t play all that badly but they had lost the game by half-time because of failure to carry out basic tasks and this has been a recurring theme all season especially at home. People were ringing up on WM Radio last evening shouting the odds and calling for Lee Clark’s head again, banging on about the tactics and the formation. It matters diddlely-squat what the tactics and set up are if you fail to track midfielders, mark centre-forwards, apply pressure to the man on the ball and then drop off and then ball watch as a long ball is played in behind you. On the subject of Lee Clark, who do we replace him with? We don’t have the money to sack him and all things considered I don’t think he deserves such a fate when you consider the almost impossible conditions he’s been working under.
I now hope that those who were talking about the play-offs after Friday have finally come back down from the cloud they were floating about on. I’ve been keeping a progress graph on Blues this season and you only needed to look at it weeks ago to know that we were going to finish mid-table at very best and that is where we will finish. We need to get this season finished as quickly as possible and rebuild over the summer, hopefully with new owners. We are in the Championship for a while fellow noses so get used to it. Just as well because I don’t fancy being cannon fodder for the Premier League Elite again just yet.
The Good: Good fight back; still enjoyed watching our young players play despite the loss of the game.
The Bad: The defending in the first half and our finishing in the second.
The Ugly: That lot behind the goal in the Gil Merrick Stand.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Butland 6. Caddis 6. Hancox (Arthur 78) 6. Davies 6 Robinson 7. Redmond 6 (Lovenkrands 83), Elliott 7. Morrison 6. Zigic 5. Thomas 6. Ferguson 6. Not used: Doyle, Caldwell, Reilly, Ambrose, Mullins.
Bookings : Butland (foul, 36), Elliott (unsporting behaviour, 43)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): De Vries 6. Doherty 6. Johnson 8. Gorkss 7. Robinson 6. Sigurdarson 6. Davis 7. O’Hara 6 (Henry 57, 6) Hunt 7 (Batth 86). Doyle 7. Ebanks-Blake 7 (Dicko 64, 6) . Not used: McCarey, Ward, Doumbia, Hammill.
Bookings: O’Hara (foul, 31), Johnson (foul, 45+1), Davis (foul, 49), Robinson (foul 51) – Wolves.
Attendance : 19,630 (1,623 away).
Referee: Carl Boyeson 6: I don’t think the referee was as bad as some were making out and he got quite a lot right. He added six minutes on at the end to compensate for blatant time wasting from Wolves as they clung on in the second half but he missed the clear penalty for Blues in the first half; 3-1 rather than 3-0 at half time could have made the difference.