I went to this game with Will and we set off from his house in West Sussex for the 45 minute car ride to Brighton Racecourse to pick up the Park and Ride bus to the AMEX Stadium; so far so good. We arrived in time for a pie and a pint before taking our seats behind the goal. You might think from the score line that we were treated to a seven goal thriller and an afternoon’s cracking entertainment? Think again; the game was contested by two mediocre sides who couldn’t string a decent move together and it was just that the home team made fewer errors than we did.
In fairness, Brighton thoroughly deserved the three points as they contested the midfield better, got to all the second balls before we did and took their chances when they happened by. For Blues’ part they probably had better chances than the home team to score especially in the first half and simply failed to convert enough of them. Though it would have been harsh, Brighton could easily have been on the end of a high scoring defeat had our players taken the three gilt-edged chances in the first period that fell their way including a missed penalty.
As rather predicted, Gary Rowett selected Rob Kiernan for his debut in place of the injured Davis; an experiment I hope is not repeated. He looked totally lost in the role of holding midfielder alongside Gleeson who played a little better than against Middlesbrough on Wednesday but as a unit the rear-guard was all over the place and only poor decision making and finishing by the Brighton forwards prevented the match being over in the first twenty minutes. The return of Michael Morrison and David Davis cannot come quick enough for my liking. The midfield failed to gain proper control of the game at any stage of the match. Lloyd Dyer came in for Cotterill who dropped to the bench and Will turned to me and asked if Dyer was an adjective or a noun? I have to say I’d have given him the hook early on so abject was his performance but he was not the only offender.
Demarai Gray didn’t see enough of the ball; Shinnie tried hard but was largely fighting a losing battle against the more determined Brighton central midfield unit. Clayton Donaldson ploughed his usual lone furrow but won very little ball and the support around him was too slow on too many occasions resulting in the home side more often than not emerging with the ball even when we did get into good field position.
Blues got off to a shocking start and went behind after ten minutes when Joao Teixeira was allowed to cut inside of Spector when he should have been ushered down the line. His shot towards the near post was saved by Randolph only for the keeper to allow the ball to squirm from his grasp behind him to trickle over the line. Whilst Randolph doesn’t make many errors of this type, it was to cost us dear in the end. Blues did equalise with a good goal on 15 minutes when a fierce shot from Gleeson that was probably going wide was diverted in by Donaldson for 1-1. This led to a period of ascendency for Blues, but Shinnie was guilty of wasting a clear chance to put Blues ahead when Stockdale could only parry a venomous 25 yard drive from Caddis into the midfielder’s path. Unfortunately, Shinnie could only blaze over the bar from about ten yards.
Donaldson found himself in a one on one with Stockdale on 35 minutes when put through by Dyer and though the keeper made an excellent save, this was the sort of chance that simply has to be put away; a corner was scant reward from the best chance for either side of the half. An even better opportunity came and went in time added on at the end of the half when Shinnie was unceremoniously upended in the box for a stonewall penalty. Some idiot then threw a blue flare onto the pitch from our end. I don’t know whether this produced an unwanted distraction for Paul Caddis at the other end of the pitch but suffice as to say his shot was not wide enough and lacked enough power to beat Stockdale who saved well low down to his left. The writing was on the wall; it was not going to be our day.
Inevitably Brighton took full advantage of our wastefulness and scored two goals after four and fifteen minutes of the restart and shocking examples about how not to defend they were. Calderon was allowed all the room in the world to latch on to yet another cross from Sam Baldock into our box to score easily from six yards totally unmarked with Blues vainly appealing for offside; it was close but no cigar I’m afraid; having seen the footage he was level with the last defender. I’m not convinced about his second and Brighton’s fourth though as he appeared to come back from an offside position before once again netting from close range but where was the marking?
Teixeira notched his second and Brighton’s third of the afternoon when allowed to take at least two bites of the cherry from a cross that produced pinball in our box. Dyer was at fault in allowing Bruno Brighton’s right back to escape and fire a cross along the six yard line. Baldock’s original shot was blocked as was the follow up leaving the Portuguese player to fire home for 3-1. Blues reduced the arrears through substitute Thomas who was allowed to take a touch eight yards out turn and fire low past Stockdale’s right hand just inside the post.
I have to say that was rank bad defending on Brighton’s part so Blues weren’t the only culprits. Brighton seemed to win everything in the air from their crosses and that is simply not good enough at any level of football. Moreover, not enough was done to cut the supply from wide.
Novak completed the scoring on 91 minutes with an identical goal to that of Wes Thomas and it seems that the Brighton defence had learned nothing from the first time; this was exemplified by keeper, Stockdale kicking the ball away in frustration to get a late booking for his misdemeanour. Blues did throw the kitchen sink at Brighton in an attempt to snatch an unlikely equaliser; with a little more time, who knows but it was not to be and we trudged off for the buses disappointed with a poor performance despite the misleading high score line.
The Good: The fact that we didn’t concede four in the first twenty minutes! Our defence was all over the place. I thought we were far better when we went 4-4-2 late on. This change should have been made far earlier in my view.
The Bad: Abysmal defending, profligate finishing and the missed penalty that proved so costly.
The Ugly: Our prospects against Ipswich at Portman Road on Tuesday night! If we play like we did in this game it will be a rerun of the New Zealand v England cricket match with us on the short end of it.
Brighton & Hove Albion: David Stockdale 7, Bruno 5, Gordon Greer 5, Lewis Dunk 5, Joe Bennett, Rohan Ince 6, Beram Kayal 6 (Dale Stephens 72, 5) Joao Teixeira 8 (Kazenga Lua Lua 81, N/A) Inigo Calderon 7, Leon Best 6 (Craig Mackail-Smith 60, 5) Sam Baldock 6.
Subs not used: Christian Walton, Aaron Hughes, Emmanuel Ledesma, Chris OíGrady.
Goals: Teixeira 10, 58, Calderon 50, 85.
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 5, Paul Caddis 6, Paul Robinson 4, Jonathan Spector 4, Jonathan Grounds 4, Steven Gleeson 5, Rob Kiernan 4 (Callum Reilly 72, 5) Lloyd Dyer 4 (Lee Novak 63,6) Andrew Shinnie 6 (Wes Thomas 63, 6), Demarai Gray 5, Clayton Donaldson 5.
Suns not used: Colin Doyle, Nikola Zigic, David Cotterill, Koby Arthur.
Goals: Donaldson 15, Thomas 72, Novak 90 + 1
Referee: Gary Sutton 7: The man in the middle did his duties just fine and was fair and decisive. He cannot be blamed at any stage for the shortcomings of either side, especially ours!
Attendance: 25,768 (1,377 long suffering Blues fans)