I can’t say that I was looking forward to my journey to Norwich; having looked up the trains it didn’t seem to matter which way I went – whether via Reading or London Waterloo – it was still three changes and a travel time of over four hours. Driving it was three hours and that assumed traffic conditions were favourable which, given the cold wet conditions, was unlikely for the whole journey; besides; I hate driving to football! So I sucked my teeth and pondered and ultimately opted for the train from Blackwater to Reading, change for London Paddington and the the tube across the capital to Liverpool Street to catch the connection to Norwich. It was going to be late back but at least I had plenty of time to write this drivel and I had my book to read.
Well the last couple of weeks have been interesting with some new exciting acquisitions but also the sad departures of Jonathan Spector and Paul Caddis, both excellent servants of the club and I am sure I speak for many in wishing them both every good fortune in their next ventures and thanking them for their efforts in the hallowed blue shirt. I am also sorry to see the departure of Diego Fabbrini whom I still rate as a really good player especially at our level but somehow he never quite fitted in mainly because we never were able to either play a system to suit his undoubted talents or more obviously we just didn’t have players around him who were good enough to allow such a talent to shine. Once again, we wish him well in his native Italy. My late father always used to say that time waits for no man and so it is to the future we now gaze. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the young French left back Keita coming into the team although if the reports are to be believed all our additions will add much needed pace and flair to the side and hopefully we will soon see the attractive brand of football that Gianfranco Zola wants to play.
The journey took just over four hours as I thought. It was fairly painless, although when I got on the train at Liverpool Street, I appeared to have the luxury of a table seat which I sat down at. I was joined by three young women that I would estimate were in their mid twenties. They politely asked if the other three seats were taken and when I replied in the negative, they sat down and proceeded to engage each other in conversation in topics that make me cringe, namely weddings and babies! I guess it must be my age but I find stuff like that banal and vacuous and I struggled to read my book on the iPad. I was hoping that perhaps they may alight at one of the stops before Norwich but it was not to be. After a while their discourse turned to more interesting topics and became a little more tolerable whilst I played chess, bridge and solitaire to pass the time. Nearing the end of the journey one of the young ladies asked me if I was going to the football recognising the fact that I wasn’t a home supporter. As we were getting off she said that she hoped that their talking hadn’t disturbed me too much. I reflected that peace and quiet is something that you appreciate as you get older but that when you are 25 or so everything is new and exciting and therefore I have no right to be intolerant. I therefore said that she and her friends hadn’t disturbed me at all.
There was a pub called The Compleat Angler that appeared to accept away fans near the station and I called in there for a pint while I watched the second half of the Liverpool – Wolves FA Cup tie. Remarkably, the old gold and black were winning 2-0 and eventually went through 2-1 and though it irks me to say it, deservedly so. It was soon time to walk along to the ground where there was a van selling hog roast baps with sage and onion stuffing which went down a treat. A special mention for Adam, a fellow bluenose whom I met on the way and hopefully will be a new reader of Joys and Sorrows. 🙂
The game is a strange one to report on to be honest. Blues actually played some decent stuff especially at the beginning of each half. The first period we were actually the better side but Jutkiewicz missed an absolute sitter of a header on 14 minutes following a lovely cross by Jonathan Grounds into him and from five yards out he simply had to score; he didn’t because he slammed the effort against the crossbar. Later in the half another superb delivery was taken off the big man’s head by Gardner for whom the ball was just too high and the ball was over the top as a result. Nsue and Frei were both in the starting eleven and added freshness and pace to the side. We played the better football but immediately after Jutkiewicz’s miss, Morrison was robbed on the halfway line by Cameron Jerome of all people who ran clean through with defenders in his wake. Shotton – who was the last man – was unable to stop the striker turning inside before finishing neatly, right footed past Kusczcak inside his far post. Against the run of play it was 1-0 and the curse of the ex-player strikes again! Blues continued to have the better of the play but somehow the home side looked more dangerous when they attacked and Naismith should have doubled the lead just after the half hour following an excellent counter that found the forward eight yards out in front of goal. Over the top it went to the relief of the travelling contingent. Norwich did double their lead on 43 minutes from a free kick wide on our left. The fact that the free kick shouldn’t have been given is not the point; the set piece by Robbie Brady still has to be defended properly. Klose was allowed to get across in front of his defender far too easily and his glancing header found the net as easy as you like; yet another set piece disaster. So it was that we were 2-0 down in a game we arguably should have been winning.
In the second period Blues gave it a go to get back into the match but after a flurry of twenty minutes or so Norwich took control of the game. The home side could and should have scored at least two more through Naismith – who nodded a free header straight into the arms of Kusczcak when it was probably easier to score – and how Jerome didn’t score late on is beyond me. He did everything right but his side foot tap in finish following another excellent flowing move by the home side was superbly saved by Kusczcak with a last ditch dive. If either forward had registered, the score line would have been harsh on Blues but it is fair to say that despite all our good passing and approach work, Norwich always looked more likely to score from their counter play. Interestingly, we had 57% of the total possession according to the stats and it was pretty even regarding the other usual variables. Eventually, the match petered out and Norwich were able to see the game out comfortably. Blues fortunes were summed up in time added on when Gardner’s fierce right footed twenty-five yard drive hit the bar and out for a goal kick.
The Good: Our overall performance. Blues did not play badly despite the score and they deserved better than what they got from this game. Shotton was the stand out player aided by Kusczcak and I liked the look of our new recruits Nsue and Frei. Better times beckon if we keep the faith and keep playing football; it is certainly better to watch than before the Zola reign started but we desperately need a win and soon.
The Bad: The goals we conceded; one was a defensive error to allow Jerome a clear run on goal and the other was poor defending from a set piece yet again. Jutkiewicz’s miss; it was the turning point of the game. I think if he buries it as he should have done Blues certainly do not lose this match.
The Ugly: There was a bloke behind me swearing and blaspheming and deriding the efforts of the players when it was uncalled for. I have no problem with foul language; I’m an adult and I’ve heard it all before but when there are women and young children close by it is out of order and wholly inappropriate. What is more, most of his comments were ignorant, stupid and unfair.
Norwich City: John Ruddy 7, Ivo Pinto 7, Russell Martin 7, Timm Klose 7, Robbie Brady 7, Jonny Howson 6, Alexander Tettey 6 (Ben Godfrey 81, N/A), Jacob Murphy 7 (Josh Murphy 62, 7), Wes Hoolahan 7 (Kyle Lafferty 88, N/A), Steven Naismith 6, Cameron Jerome 8.
Subs not used: Ryan Bennett, Sebastien Bassong, Michael McGovern, Steven Whittaker.
Goals: Jerome 15, Klose 43.
Yellow cards: Howson.
Birmingham City: Tomasz Kusczcak 7, Emilio Nsue 7 (Josh Dacres-Cogley 88, N/A), Ryan Shotton 8, Michael Morrison 7, Jonathan Grounds 7, Robert Tesche 6 (David Cotterill 65, 6), Craig Gardner 7, Che Adams 6, David Davis 7 (Maikel Kieftenbeld 88, N/A), Kerim Frei 7, Lukas Jutkiewicz 6.
Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Adam Legzdins, Cheick Keita, Stephen Gleeson.
Yellow cards: Grounds 63, Shotton 87.
Referee: Simon Hooper 5: An indifferent performance. The free kick leading up to the second goal was soft. Shotton was unfairly penalised and Robbie Brady made the most of it. Regardless, Blues didn’t defend properly. Jerome should have been booked early on for kicking the ball away.