This was the first time for a while that I had managed to get to the match. Work and family commitments had prevented me attending the games against Brentford, Blackpool and Derby, games I would undoubtedly have attended under normal circumstances. Last weekend I had been invited along with my lady wife as guests of honour at an Army reunion dinner in Stoke on Trent. It was a reunion held every two years by veterans of the Army operating theatre technicians and it was good to catch up with so many old friends, many of whom had served with me in some pretty hostile and insalubrious places. In addition to an after dinner address, one of the privileged duties I had to perform was to present a medal on behalf of the South Korean government to one of our oldest veterans and one of the few survivors of his group from that dreadful conflict.
On the Sunday, we all went to the National Memorial Arboretum where I laid a wreath in memory of fallen medics some of whom many of us present knew. That was a very moving experience and the sort of occasion where football has to take a back seat. I did keep an eye on the score at Derby on the Saturday afternoon however and had long since given up on the game at 2-0 down with 20 minutes left and had other things to do in any case. I switched on final score on the BBC in the hotel room to catch the results to see to my total amazement that Blues had salvaged a draw with two goals in three minutes in time added on! A remarkable result when we had been pretty poor for most of the match by all accounts; as Jimmy Greaves used to say; “It’s a funny old game ain’ it Saints?”
Back to the present, it felt good to be off to football once again and I caught my usual train from Blackwater to Reading meeting up with Chris at Coventry about 12.25. We went back to the Oak for a quick pint and to pick up little Jack before proceeding to the game. Unfortunately, little Jack had been blotting his copy book repeatedly all morning and finally pushed everyone too far, was given his second yellow card and was banned for the game so he did not join us. The day had started off dry and sunny but it promised to be a chilly one with a brisk easterly breeze passing across the country. We had plenty of time for a pint in the Royal George and took in some of the Wales & Ireland Rugby Union game. We entered the ground and there was four hot pork and black pudding sausages with cheese mash topped with onion gravy to warm the soul from the Cookhouse before taking our seats.
I got the impression from this game that Blues are a team falling into the category of comfortable, not much to play for, can’t wait for close season, get on the beach and all that. The lads look leg weary in truth and the first half especially seemed to have trouble injecting enough tempo into the play and when they did they couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Overall the visitors had the edge and though Blues were better in the second half, I felt over the whole piece that the away side were the better of the two sides. I am not in any way saying that Blues were outplayed, far from it, they had their moments but a more penetrative and sharper team would have won this match given that they had plenty of the ball in midfield but lacked precision in front of goal. They were as guilty as Blues for coughing up possession but somehow looked more assured in their periods of ascendency without seriously threatening us for the most part.
Huddersfield started the more brightly showing intent with an attacking 4-3-3 formation against our usual 4-2-3-1 and James Vaughan should have done better for them when his shot from 12 yards when well-placed went thankfully wide of Randolph’s near post. Blues somewhat against the run of play had the lead on ten minutes with a very well worked goal. Caddis broke up play and slipped the ball inside to Davies continuing his run down the flank. A lovely return from the midfielder was delivered into the box to the onrushing Cotterill whose first time shot was partially parried by Smithies in the Huddersfield goal but he couldn’t prevent it nestling in the net for 1-0.
Defensively is where Blues continue to be vulnerable however and it came as no surprise when the visitors deservedly equalised on 27 minutes through Lolley, a former academy graduate of ours by all accounts. Jack Robinson had launched a couple of formidable throw ins into our box. He can seriously hurl a ball and it was from one such throw from the Tilton/Family Stand corner that their goal came. The ball alighted near the far post in our six yard box and we simply didn’t deal with it. It ricocheted around and Lolley was first to the umpteenth rebound to net from three yards; it was appalling defending plain and simple. Randolph saved us a few moments later when Joe Lynch’s header was diverted away from goal just in the nick of time.
The rest of the half saw Huddersfield fancying their chances and understandably so as Sean Scannell, on for the injured Harry Bunn, on 20 minutes gave us problems all afternoon down the left flank and I feel we have to be thankful that we didn’t concede another before half time when a tub of comforting pea and ham hock soup was on offer. As mentioned earlier, Blues were better in the second half and over the whole game enjoyed nearly two thirds of the possession although it didn’t feel that way. We had chances to win the game when Thomas wasn’t quick enough onto Robert Tesche’s cut back after an excellent run by him and by the time the striker got his shot off he had been smothered.
Paul Caddis delivered an excellent free kick over the wall but it wasn’t quite in the postage stamp and Smithies pulled off a great save to prevent Blues retaking the lead. Lloyd Dyer, a late substitute almost scored the winner but his shot from a narrow angle found the wrong side of the side netting. It would have been an injustice on the men from Yorkshire had they conceded and 1-1 was in the end a fair score line.
The Good: the fact that in a poor game we didn’t lose the match despite not playing very well. A good point gained rather than two lost in my view.
The Bad: the defending for the goal we conceded; awful, simply awful. In the pub afterwards, Chris and I somehow felt a little subdued as it hadn’t been the greatest game in truth. A bloke next to us said “Well, it could be worse; at least yow ain’t Villa!” Very true and we both felt so much better afterwards! 😀
The Ugly: the mixed metaphors from the Viler who called up WM Radio after their 4-0 success at the Stadium of Light. Commenting on the fact that Sunderland fans were leaving when Villa’s third goal went in he said; “Seeing that was like music to our ears!” I kid you not; you could not make it up! 😀
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 7, Paul Caddis 6, Jonathan Spector 7, Rob Kiernan 7, Jonathan Grounds 6, Robert Tesche 7, David Davies 6, Andrew Shinnie 7 (Wes Thomas 68, 6) Demarai Gray 6 (Lloyd Dyer 82, N/A) David Cotterill 6 Clayton Donaldson 6 (Nikola Zigic 76, 6)
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Paul Robinson, Mitch Hancox, Lee Novak.
Goals: Cotterill 10
Huddersfield Town: Alex Smithies 7, Joel Lynch 6, Mark Hudson 7, Jonathan Hogg 7, Tommy Smith 6, Joe Lolley 6 (Oscar Gobern 77, 6) Jacob Butterfield 6, Conor Coady 6, Jack Robinson 7 (Murray Wallace 90, N/A) James Vaughan 6, Harry Bunn 6 (Sean Scannell 20, 7)
Subs not used: Radoslaw Madjewski, Jake Carroll, Joe Murphy, Ishmael Miller.
Goals: Lolley 27
Bookings: Coady, Robinson.
Referee: Paul Tierney 6: There were one or two errors but not so many and none of them affected the result or the game in the final analysis. Overall, I thought Mr Tierney and his officials were decisive and fair and that after all is all you can ask of people who are paid the very least of any personnel on the pitch; a fact often forgotten by fans and pundits who sit in judgement from their elevated positions in the terraces or television studios each week.