“The north wind will blow,
And we will have snow,
And what will poor robin do then?
This week has seen the return of snow but if the sight out of my back garden window was anything to go by, poor robin was just fine listening intently to the turf in search of an unsuspecting grub for breakfast. There was no time to linger however, as time was marching on and so it was breakfast, clean teeth, put on coat and hat and off down to Blackwater station. I was catching the train to Guildford before changing to get the one going to Haslemere. Now the geographers amongst you will have already started to wonder why on earth I was travelling in the opposite direction if the eventual destination was St Andrews? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Earlier in the week Chris called up and said that he had a bunch of friends of his visiting from France and would be unable to go to football this week; it was the Ricoh Arena and the rugby for him. His brother Will has been released this week for good behaviour and had been allowed to come along in his stead. Will told me he intended to bring his little boy, little Will along for only his second match but wouldn’t be able to get away until about 11.15 because of little Will’s football training. It seemed logical to meet half way and save Will time swinging by my house to pick me up. At Haslemere we would be straight onto the A3, through the Hindhead Tunnel and away via the M25. I caught the 10.25 from Blackwater and was at Haslemere just on 11.15.
Things went according to plan and we arrived at St Andrews at about 13.40 in time to nip into the Blues shop to get little Will a warm scarf, woolly hat and some gloves. He was presented with these items and is therefore a fully fledged member of the Bluenose nation. 😀 We also had time for a quick pint in the George before entering the ground where the Cookhouse had beef ribs served on a bed of wild rice and red beans. The hot food went down very well on what was going to be a chilly afternoon in the stands. There was a respectfully observed minute’s applause for the late Graham Taylor who passed away suddenly yesterday and with those formalities over it was on with the game.
As you all know by now, the result was a disappointing goalless draw but Blues did give it a good go at nicking the points and on another day with a little better run of the ball we would have prevailed against a Nottingham Forest team that looked to have come for a draw and defended deep and wide with five across the back when Birmingham attacked. The problem was that our midfield simply didn’t move the ball quick enough and there was a lack of player movement to give the ball player options resulting in a lack of penetration necessary to break Forest down. You could argue that the visitors defended well throughout the game but because of the ponderous nature of our play we made it too easy to defend against us. On the positive side, the attempt by Zola to play out from the back and move the ball around utilising a passing game look a little better assured but the tempo isn’t quick enough to be truly effective. This was certainly the case in the first half which was absolute dross but the second period was much better and the introduction of Craig Gardner in his new spell at the club and David Cotterill improved the spectacle. The first period had little of note; Che Adams, the man of the match in my opinion, fired a low shot just past the far post following a surging run midway through the half. Just before that, Matt Mills had almost got in for the visitors from a corner when he found himself unmarked but couldn’t divert his header on target. The only other moment of excitement was a cross from Jutkiewicz which deflected into the path of Kieftenbeld. Unfortunately, his fierce drive was charged down by Henderson. Cash actually had the ball in the net for Forest after 30 minutes but he was well offside when he received the ball and the flag was up long before he put the ball in the net so it is barely worthy of mention. Our only other scare was when Grounds, who had a poor game, attempted to head back to Kusczcak from 40 yards out only to present Assombalonga with a run through on goal. Fortunately, Shotton spared his team mate’s blushes with a timely challenge.
Will said to me at half time that he hoped by all that was sacred that what we had just witnessed was our ‘bad half.’ In truth it did improve as a spectacle despite the fact that in the main the stubborn rearguard action by Forest persisted. They were clearly playing for a clean sheet and if they managed a smash and grab mugging by nicking one on the break then so be it. Given the way of things for Blues recently it wasn’t a bad strategy since when was the last time we had managed not to gift at least one soft goal in a game? Fortunately, it didn’t happen because Forest weren’t good enough to score either but at least both teams did have a go but it has to be said Blues looked the more likely to break the deadlock and more so as the minutes ticked down. Jutkiewicz did have the ball in the net following a ricochet off Shotton as Forest tried to clear their lines but sadly the big man was offside and correctly flagged. It would undoubtedly have settled this contest with only eight minutes left but despite much better passing, movement and ball delivery with the introduction of Craig Gardner and later Cotterill, the ball just wouldn’t quite run for us and it was stalemate in the end. There were vigorous shouts for a penalty right on full time when there looked to be a clear hand ball in the box but Mr Bankes waved away Blues’ protests; I have a feeling Forest got away with one there. In the end, the second half meant it wasn’t the worst game I’ve ever seen and there is definite improvement in the quality of some of the play beginning to appear. I therefore have some sympathy with Gianfranco Zola’s view that it is a matter of time before results start to turn our way.
The Good: The fact that little Will received his colours today. He looked resplendent in his Blues hat, scarf and gloves, all much needed on such a cold day.
The Bad: The first half; it was pretty dire and that is paying it a compliment! The second period was better and at least Blues tried to win the game.
The Ugly: I always hated that song about Carson Yeung which our supporters sang incessantly for over two years. It was an ugly tune with ugly lyrics and I had hoped I’d heard the last of it. Well, it appears that the Tricky Trees have their own version to the same tune about their present owners who are clearly not flavour of the month. They sang it continuously for the last 10 minutes which speaks volumes for their stamina but not much for lifting the mood. Whilst I sympathise, their songs of protest only served to remind us at Blues how awful it is having bad owners; I for one want to put it behind us and move on.
Birmingham City: Thomas Kusczcak 7, Jonathan Spector 6, Ryan Shotton 6, Michael Morrison 6, Jonathan Grounds 4, Stephen Gleeson 6, Maikel Kieftenbeld 6 (Craig Gardner 54, 7), David Davis 7, Diego Fabbrini 6 (David Cotterill 64, 6), Lukas Jutkiewicz 7, Che Adams 8.
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Robert Tesche, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Viv Soloman-Otabor.
Yellow cards: Morrison.
Nottingham Forest: Stephen Henderson 6, Eric Lichaj 6, Matt Mills 7, Jack Hobbs 7, Matty Cash 6, Thomas Lam 6, Michael Mancienne 6, Ben Osborn 6, Hildeberto Pereira 7 (David Vaughan 82, N/A), Lica 6 (Daniel Pinillos 72, 6), Britt Assombalonga 7.
Subs not used: Damien Perquis, Nicklas Bendtner, Edser, Brereton.
Yellow cards: Mancienne.
Referee: Peter Bankes: 7; I thought the man in the middle had a good game. There were a couple of excellent decisions that he made which were off the ball for which he signalled for after having played advantage. The only contentious incident was a penalty shout for Blues with seconds left which every Blues player and many around my area of the crowd were convinced should have been awarded. I wasn’t sure if it was for hand ball or a push but Mr Bankes either didn’t see it or decided it was not worthy of the award.