My dear Aunty Ann turned 90 at the end of September and it was only right and proper that since I was making the trip to the city of my birth for the latest instalment of the saga that is the tale of all things blue, that I should detour slightly up to Four Oaks and see her and my disabled cousin Janet who lives with her. Mrs Bazza wanted to visit as well and stated that she would accompany me on the journey taking in a shopping trip in Birmingham whilst I watched “22 grown men running about kicking a pig’s bladder round a lawn!” The credit card was clearly going to be smoking as Mrs Bazza wasn’t joking and so it was that I had to be on my very best behaviour this Saturday morning!
It meant a very early start to fit everything in and we got up at 06.30 to be ready in time for the walk down to our local station to catch the 08.31 at Blackwater. We got to Reading on schedule and headed for the 09.09 train to Birmingham; it didn’t exist and the next one was 09.40. Following some grimacing, expletives under the breath and finally philosophical acceptance, I called Chris to tell him that the best laid plans of mice and men had been devoured by the cat. It meant that we were not going to get to Butlers Lane until later meaning a later return and so I didn’t get back to town for Chris to pick me up near St Martin’s Church until 13.30 which meant the loss of at least one if not two pints prior to the game! Moreover, Chris was stuck in traffic and I told him to park up near the ground and I would walk down to the ground from town rather than have him waste time in a jam.
The walk did me good and I made it to the George just after 14.00 meeting up with Chris and little Jack so all was well that ended well. I discovered that Chris had put himself on the wagon for sober October to give his body and liver especially a rest! Taking more than the recommended weekly units is an occupational hazard for publicans and Chris was rather morosely downing a pint of Coke so even recognising the merit of his actions I don’t think he was necessarily enjoying the experience. It didn’t stop me wallowing in the fun of watching his quiet, dignified suffering however. 🙂 we both decided to purchase a Peaky Blinders cap for the hell of it and a picture of yours truly and Chris is provided.
As for the forthcoming game, my main concern was the curse of the new manager which always seems to happen to us. I was praying for instance that Fulham wouldn’t sack Felix Magath until after they had played us but they got rid just before and look what happened! Last season, Mick ‘I can smell round corners’ McCarthy took over a truly dire Ipswich team that couldn’t buy a win and yet they came to St Andrews and won; but then again, doesn’t everybody? Bolton have just parted company with Dougie Freedman and now have Neil Lennon installed and one only had to hope that circumstance wouldn’t work against us again. The games at Millwall and Charlton had given much room for optimism but we were back at St Andrews and we all know what that means.
Well true to form, after a bright first twenty minutes during which Cotterill clipped the angle of post and bar with a free kick and Demarai Gray bumped a bobbling ball into the ground and over when well placed, Koby Arthur crashed a shot into the side netting with the home side very much on top but then Blues conceded the softest of goals from a far post header direct from a Jay Spearing corner and frankly that was that for the rest of the game. We played none of the flowing on the deck football demonstrated at Millwall and Charlton despite essentially fielding the same team. We played into Bolton’s hands by being far too direct to lone striker, Clayton Donaldson who put a really good shift in despite being outmuscled by bigger defenders. Despite this he held his own and did his best to hold the ball up and bring others into play. There were too many key players simply not at it notably Cotterill, who bottled at least two tackles which incensed the watching home supporters, Gleeson who achieved very little in my view and was subbed half way through the second half. He looked so assured in the recent away games when Blues had control of midfield but when up against a highly physical, bullying midfield unit such as Bolton’s he was ineffective and found wanting. Callum Reilly came on on 28 minutes for the injured David Davis which did not help the cause and although doing his best breaking up play coughed up possession too easily with wayward passing but he improved in the second half to be fair.
The two youngsters, Koby Arthur and Demarai Gray played well in a faltering team performance and with a little more composure with the final ball or shot may have changed the outcome in Blues’ favour. They did at least have a go and worked the keeper in the second half on at least three occasions. It was true that Blues created more chances than the visitors and the chances created were better but as so often of late Blues didn’t take them and this is proving very costly. Arthur was unlucky to see his deflected shot cannon off the crossbar to safety late in the second half but in truth it would have been more than Blues deserved. Don’t get me wrong, Bolton weren’t great, in fact they were poor but they beat us easily in the end because we were tactically inept, poor in execution, toothless up front and susceptible defensively. The goal we conceded was a shocker and to cap it all, Caddis, who had the worst game I’ve seen him play was responsible for a suicidal back pass on 82 minutes that gifted the opposition a penalty and the hapless Darren Randolph a red card for trying to retrieve the situation. The fact that Craig Davies blazed the spot kick over the Gil Merrick goal occupied by makeshift keeper, Lee Novak made scant difference; Bolton were able to see the game out comfortably despite six minutes of time added on. Very few Blues players merited any kind of positive result from this encounter apart from Donaldson and the two youngsters plus Novak who made a creditable save catching a fierce shot near the end that Randolph himself would have been proud of. It was not a good day and with now only one win in 55 weeks at home the manager, Lee Clark’s days must be numbered.
The Good: Chris spilling Bovril down his brand new Peaky Blinders scarf!
The Bad: Chris on the wagon for the month of October!
The Ugly: The fat bloke at the front in the Gil Merrick stand wearing a Mohican cap wig; a fine figure of a man – NOT!!!!
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 6 Paul Caddis 4, David Edgar 6, Paul Robinson 6, Jonathan Grounds 5, Koby Arthur 7, Stephen Gleeson 5 (Wes Thomas 65, 5) David Davies 6 (Callum Reilly 28, 6) Demarai Gray 7, David Cotterill 4 (Lee Novak 58, 6) Clayton Donaldson 7.
Bookings: Paul Robinson
Sent off: Randolph 82 minutes – professional foul.
Bolton Wanderers: Andrew Lonergan 6, Kevin McNaughton 6, Dean Moxey 6 (Tim Ream 79, 6) Matt Mills 7, Jay Spearing 6, Liam Feeney 6, Jermaine Beckford 6, Dorian Dervite 6, Neil Danns 6, Darren Prateley 6 (Craig Davies 79, 5) Lee Chung-Yong 7.
Goals: Matt Mills 21 minutes
Bookings: Matt Mills
Referee: Mark Haywood 4; very poor in the first half, improved a little in the second period. Whilst I think he got the penalty call right and Randolph had to go, there were too many clear fouls not penalised for both sides though Bolton benefitted the most from such leniency. The official made no difference to the result however; Blues lost because they failed to defend a set piece properly and were clueless when it came to breaking down one of the worst Bolton sides I have seen in years; doesn’t say much for us does it?