It was a cold blustery day in my part of the world and I was up early because in truth I didn’t quite know what my final arrangements were regarding meeting up with mates prior to the game. Will was definitely not going as he had a family get together before Christmas which Chris was also highly likely going to have to attend and given that The Oak was heavily booked with Christmas parties anyway it was odds on that I was going to be Billy No Mates for this one. Chris was going to call me late morning to let me know whether he had blagged off the aforementioned events or not in favour of matters of great import namely football 😀
It was against this backdrop that I decided to visit my elderly Auntie Ann and my spinster cousin, Janet in Sutton Coldfield before heading back to New Street and the walk down to St Andrews. So it was, armed with a heavy bag of festive presents, I headed for Blackwater station to catch the train to Reading then New Street before finally changing for Butlers Lane. I made decent time and arrived just before noon to spend an hour or so with my relatives before heading back to the town centre.
Just before I left Auntie’s house, Chris texted through to say that he wouldn’t be able to make it so it was a disconsolate air that matched that of the day that I made my way down to the hallowed ground. It felt very strange to be without Chris and little Jack for a home game. I called in at the Royal George for a couple of pints and the end of the lunchtime match before making my way into the ground for another pint and some food; hot bangers and mash in onion gravy. I couldn’t resist sending this picture to Chris with the caption; “Hi mate, I just got you a pint in but then remembered that you ain’t here so I’ll have to drink it for you! 😀 It was at this point that my mobile lost its battery power but I was talking to a guy called Graham who had a phone cover with an incorporated charger and he kindly sparked it up for me. If you are reading this mate, thank you again.
As to the match itself, I felt this was a game we simply had to win if we were to maintain our challenge of the top six. Despite our indifferent form, none of the chasing pack had contrived to displace us which surprised me but I suppose it shows that the Championship is full of closely matched sides and many are as inconsistent as we are. The truth is you don’t have to be that good to make the playoffs but if you can be consistent you can go a long way towards achieving it.
Well we got off to an awful start and frankly the problems that led to Huddersfield’s opener with barely a minute on the clock did not improve all game. Scannell on the right flank had the freedom of the park and Grounds was left exposed time and again as we failed to deal with their full backs who pushed up high in a 3-5-2 formation and Toral didn’t track back to help. The Spaniard was supposed to be playing wide left of a front three but he looked all over the shop and kept turning inside when starved of the ball leaving his full back facing a two on one all the time. It was little wonder Grounds remonstrated with the Arsenal loanee repeatedly. Whilst it improved a little when Davis went across to drop in there and deny the visitors so much space the damage was done. In the first minute Scannell ran down the wing squared Grounds up and crossed. The ball found its way to Lolley at the far post who wasn’t going to miss from close range because Eardley, in the team in place of Caddis failed to get tight enough. This was the type of kamikaze defending that we used to see week in week out when Lee Clark was in charge! How worrying is that?
We lacked attacking threat; Brock-Madsen looked isolated, unconvincing and not ready for this level. He simply doesn’t make the runs necessary to trouble experienced defenders and in fairness he was up against three central defenders who just knocked the ball round him making his efforts appear even more hapless than they already were. Toral and Gray simply did not get close enough to him to help him out either so it was not all the big lad’s fault.
We lacked creativity and guile in the centre of the park and once again Demarai Gray, our much lauded young star, if the media is to be believed, didn’t do enough and got the hook on the hour in favour of Andrew Shinnie. We ended up with no recognised striker when Brock-Madsen was substituted at the same time but the odd time we did carve out a chance we missed them due to blocks or saves. I must say I found the tactics baffling when Toral, arguably our most likely player to pick a pass from midfield pushed up front into a false 9 situation. The trouble was we had so many players out of position it was never likely to work. Chasing the game late on Huddersfield scored a virtually identical goal to their first through Nahki Wells with 10 minutes left and that as they say was that.
This was our fifth home defeat of this campaign and once again was an exercise in how to make a poor, struggling team look good. Whilst last week at Brighton, Blues lost but played very well, there was no such positive to take from this dispiriting and joyless experience. Play-offs? Not with home form like this; we have over performed so far and our thin resources are beginning to show. A fully fit first eleven and we are competitive; the moment we have to rely on our replacements and we are not. That is the stark truth I’m afraid. I cannot see where our next goal, let alone next win, is coming from. Judging by Middlesborough’s demolition of Ipswich last night, we are not going to change things next week.
The Good: My visit to my relatives, the fact that Chris and little Jack missed this dross, the hot bangers and mash before the game and Graham’s kindness in putting enough charge into my phone to spark it up.
The Bad: Everything about this Blues performance. Two truly woeful bits of defending for both goals conceded. Poor though we were we created three excellent opportunities to score which we failed to do because of good saves by Steer and a good defensive block. These types of openings have to be converted; no excuses. I am struggling to come up with a single positive thing to say about this showing. It was abysmal; if ever there was evidence that our squad lacks depth to sustain play-off pretensions, this was it.
The Ugly: The chant from the Huddersfield fans towards the end “You’re worse than Aston Villa! You’re worse than Aston Villa!” On this showing, it’s the truth! Heaven help against Middlesborough and Cardiff!
Birmingham City: Tomas Kuczcak 6 Neil Eardley 4, Michael Morrison 5, Jonathan Spector 6, Jonathan Grounds 4, David Davis 6 (Viv Soloman-Otabor 73, 6) Mikael Kieftenbeld 5, Jon Toral 5, Stephen Gleeson 5, Demarai Gray 5 (Andrew Shinnie 60, 5) Nicolai Brock-Madsen 5 (Jacques Maghoma 60, 6)
Subs not used: Adam Lezgdins, Paul Caddis, Shane Lowry, Greg Halford.
Yellow cards: Kieftenbeld
Huddersfield Town: Jed Steer 7, Tommy Smith 6, Jason Davidson 7, Dean Whitehead 7 (Kyle Dempsey 73, 6) Mark Hudson 6, Sean Scannell 7, Jamie Paterson 8, Martin Crainie 6, Emyr Hughes 6, Joe Lolley 6 (Mustapha Carayol 62,6) Nahki Wells 6 (Ismael Miller 88, N/A) Ben Chilwell 6.
Subs not used: Jonathan Hogg, Murray Wallace, Harry Bunn, Lloyd Allinson.
Goals: Lolley 1, Wells 80.
Yellow cards: Hudson, Caryol
Referee: Stephen Martin 4: This official was as poor as the game. He did at least add on plenty of time for blatant time wasting but it made no difference; if we had played another ninety minutes on top; Blues wouldn’t have scored.
Attendance: 15,931 (813 away fans)