View from the sofa
I normally don’t comment on games that I haven’t been to but I thought I would make one or two observations on the game yesterday that I endured rather than enjoyed from the relative comfort of my sofa. It is a busy time of the year and I actually did go to the game at Bristol Rovers in the week along with my eldest boy Jonny. We watched a reasonably decent game and I’m glad to report that unlike nine other Championship sides we won fairly comfortably and didn’t come a cropper. At no stage did I think we would in truth and apart from the sloppy goal we conceded Blues were in total control throughout the game. It looked to me that Blues did the minimum they had to in order to progress against the Pirates or Gasmen as they are sometimes called and I always felt that there was another gear if things went awry as shown by Shinnie’s winner some four minutes after the hosts had equalised. Work commitments meant that I simply didn’t have the time to prepare a match report as is my wont and of course no sooner would it have been done but the next match namely the Burnley game would have been upon us.
I find watching Blues on the television nerve-wracking compared to watching live somehow so I don’t find the experience necessarily enjoyable. However, yesterday’s game wasn’t too bad from that point of view. I thought Blues were the better in the first half and deserved their lead and but for a fabulous free kick from Matt Taylor with only minutes left Blues could have run out winners. The game was not without its controversies and Sean Dyche was understandably dissatisfied with the referee who in my opinion had a shocker but he was consistently poor for both sides so I don’t think the result was unduly influenced since on the balance of the match I feel in the end, a draw was about right. I have the following observations:
Burnley should have had a penalty early on when Spector tangled with Jutkiewicz as the big striker was trying to get onto a ball over the top. I think we definitely got away with one there and had the assistant seen it clearly he could have given it and undoubtedly Spector would have been dispatched to the dressing room but I think I can explain why it wasn’t given. The referee is unsighted as he is behind the incident. The assistant on the other hand may be guilty of what we blame players for; ball watching. The flight of the ball favours Kusczak who in my view will catch the ball before the centre forward gets there and even if the latter does, a free kick in favour of Blues will be the likely result since there is no way that Jutkiewicz can head the ball without clattering the keeper. If the assistant is following the flight of the ball he probably misses the split second contact and merely witnesses both players crumpling in a heap. We were lucky but that happens not infrequently every Saturday afternoon up and down the country.
Donaldson pushed the defender to allow Toral to strike the shot for Blues’ opener? The contact is minimal but I can see what the pundits mean but the pundit concerned is an injured Burnley player so he is bound to view the incident as more than it was. I think it would have been very harsh to have disallowed what was a lovely goal.
Cotterill gave away the free kick out on Burnley’s left wing which led to the equaliser; I didn’t feel this was a free kick as the challenge was shoulder to shoulder within playing distance of the ball and the ball was arguably out for a throw in anyway. Nevertheless the free kick has to be defended properly and it simply wasn’t. Allowing the flick on from the near post to the far post led to the goal.
The penalty awarded to Blues was soft? Yes indeed it was and we would certainly have been aggrieved had that one gone against us but there is contact albeit minimal and the referee was in good position to see it. Moving at the speed professional players move, it takes very little to knock them off balance. Looking at the footage the defender clips Donaldson’s left foot and causes him to trip over his right. Outside the box I have no doubt a free kick would have been given but inside the box on any given Saturday we have all seen similar incidents waved away so I can understand Burnley’s grievances.
Matt Taylor’s free kick was superb and deserving of the second equaliser; it certainly was but I am not sure the free kick should have been awarded in the first place. The original foul had it been given immediately, I would have had no argument at all. However, the referee waved advantage and then pulled it back when no perceived advantage accrued. Now, this is where the interpretation of the advantage law in football needs to be consistently clarified. Personally, I would like to see advantage applied as yesterday’s referee did but as the law stands he was incorrect. Law 5 is ambiguous but the advantage law to my understanding is applied if there is a clear promising attack resulting following the infringement and the attacking player has a clear unimpaired chance to play the ball cleanly. This was the case yesterday; the ball broke to a Burnley player on the edge of the area and he had time to cross into the box from a dangerous position. He sliced the ball over the bar however and some referees would have signalled a goal kick ruling that the advantage had been allowed and the position wasted. The advantage law is not like that in rugby union in that the recipient side effectively have a play to nothing because they know the official will return to the original incident unless he shouts ‘advantage over!’
In the end, if Toral’s goal is disallowed it’s 0-0 at half time. If the throw in rather than the free kick is given against Cotterill it remains 0-0. If Donaldson is not given the penalty it’s 0-0 still and if the advantage is ruled null and void then it’s, yes you’ve guessed it 0-0! Ergo, a draw which is exactly what we got but I know which I’d rather have out of 0-0 or 2-2. Football is full of lots of could’ves should’ves but overall I felt the result was fair following a decent game. Either side could have won had certain decisions gone the other way but that’s football. Moreover, Cotterill’s strike which hit the post could have gone in and Taylor’s smacked the bar face on and come out; by such fine margins are results defined sometimes.
Finally, I thought Clayton Donaldson deserved his man of the match award although I thought Gleeson was excellent in midfield as was Toral. Kieftenbeld had another good game and Cotterill contributed well from the wing. Our main weakness remains in the centre of defence where I thought we struggled to cope with Burnley’s physical forwards. We need another dominant, burly defender to play alongside Morrison although I am not decrying Spector’s efforts. The only real disappointment for me was Demarai Gray whom I thought had a quiet game but he did his defensive tracking back well enough. We have the luxury of no midweek match with the original game at Brentford moved to next month. This will give us a bit more preparation time for the next game against Derby next Friday.