It was 0945 at Blackwater station where I stood ticket in one hand and mobile phone in the other. Will picked up the other end and immediately (straight away for those still living in Birmingham’s fair city 🙂 ) said, “your train leaves in five minutes. Don’t miss it!” I replied that I didn’t get to where I am today by being unpunctual and that was the sort of behaviour that I leave to others mentioning no names. “I’m all over it.” I said. The banter had started early; it was likely to be a long car journey! I was travelling to meet up with Will at Haslemere. Will’s missus, Juley had let him off his lead this week as his little girl was due to be a bridesmaid at an upcoming family wedding which meant a trip to Birmingham for the pretty dress. What a coincidence that said trip should happen to fall on a day when Blues were playing at home. It also meant that Will’s little boy, Will junior could be spared being dragged round the shops with his Mum, Aunt and sister and come to the football with us instead; result!
Another week has gone by, another two disappointing results have gone under the eternal bridge. I watched us play Sheffield Wednesday last Friday night. I consider Wednesday a good side at this level and to see us outplay them for 75 of the 90 minutes contested and yet be on the wrong end of a 3-0 score line was frustrating and galling in the extreme but I had that bad feeling when we hit the woodwork for the third time midway through the second half with the score 1-0 that it was not going to be our night. Their second was a beauty from a peach of a cross that professional players strive to deliver but rarely achieve. When they do get it right, it is almost indefensible since the defenders are bypassed, they cannot get across the line of the ball, they are turned facing their own goal and if they do get anything on it, it is likely to wind up in the net anyway. That goal killed us, the goose was cooked and the fat fried. The problem was earlier in the game when we defended badly from yet another set piece. Will’s Uncle Frank, a lifelong supporter who remembers the side with Gill Merrick, Jeff Hall, Trevor Smith, Noel Kinsey, etc., has said for a long time that as well as the obvious two decent centre-backs, what Blues need is another goalkeeper. Uncle Frank has frequently commented that Kusczcak does not command his six yard box and that was in evidence with Wednesday’s opener. When you concede a soft gift like that early on you are always chasing the the game. You can play all the pretty football you like but if you defend like we do, go behind early then you will struggle because teams like Wednesday even though they are under pressure will soak it up and pick you off on the break which is exactly what happened. As for the Preston match, the less said about that the better; dreadful goals to concede especially their winner when Blues had been on top for the whole of the second half. Teams must go into games against us really fancying their chances. They must look at our video footage and think “they’re not very good are they? They look even more c**p than we are!” It was to be hoped that QPR were lacking in as much confidence as us.
Well it appears they weren’t. This game can be summed up very simply; neat pretty passing, lovely touches, lots of pressure in patches especially in the second half, absolutely execrable defending! QPR’s first goal was an easy header by Matt Smith, all six feet six of him (it wasn’t difficult to work out that’s who the crosser would aim for is it?) unmarked right in front of goal from minimal distance from a corner to add to the longest list of set piece disasters in the division on 18 minutes. Once again 1-0 down and then facing a team that grimly put nine men in front of us when we were in possession and then proceeded to pick us off on the break and had they been half decent they could easily have added to their lead. It wasn’t as if Blues did not create opportunities in what was an open game, it was that they just didn’t take them when they came along and despite the attractive build up play it wasn’t often that they troubled Smithies in the QPR goal.
Blues showed intent at the start of the second half but conceded a farcical second by not clearing their lines when Washington finally thumped in a right footer from about ten yards at the umpteenth time of asking and it was obvious it was going to be another bitterly disappointing afternoon of the type that Birmingham fans have had to endure on far too many occasions in recent times. The away fans behind the Gil Merrick goal must have thought all their Christmases had come at once when a cross from the right wing that should have been cut out was dispatched by Idrissa Sylla with a diving header and the freedom of our box for good measure for 3-0. The best goal of the afternoon was scored by Yeni N’Gbakoto with a 35 yard free kick that seemed to catch Kusczcak by surprise since although he got his hand to it the ball struck the underside of the bar before nestling in the net. Can’t help feeling that Kusczcak should perhaps have done better but had it not been for his performance this fiasco would have been so much worse. Blues did eventually trouble the scoreboard operator when after a flowing move involving Jack Storer and Che Adams, Emilio Nsue side footed across the keeper for an ironic cheer from the dwindling home support. It was the 94th minute; too little too late. Thrashed by a pretty ordinary team; we are in serious trouble and I hate to say it but I cannot see where our next point let alone win is coming from. We have a defence as watertight as a colander and until that is addressed we are heading in only one direction.
The Good: The company of my mates, the excellent chicken masala balti and rice accompanied by naan bread and cool cucumber raita from the Cookhouse.
The Bad: The fact that our goalkeeper who had four goals put past him was voted man of the match; without his saves, particularly in the first half, this could easily have turned into another Bournemouth and the worst thing about it is that this QPR team are nowhere near as good as they were.
The Ugly: QPR’s away strip! Yuk!
Birmingham City: Tomasz Kusczcak 7, Emilio Nsue 7, Ryan Shotton 5, Jonathan Grounds 5, Josh Dacres-Cogley 5 (Kerim Frei 45, 6), Cheick Keita 5 (Paul Robinson 31, 6), Robert Tesche 5 (Jack Storer 82, N/A), Greg Stewart 5, Jerome Sinclair 5, Che Adams 6, Maikel Kieftenbeld 5.
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Stephen Gleeson, Corey O’Keefe, Krystian Bielik.
Goals: Nsue 90 + 4.
Yellow cards: Robinson, Tesche, Storer.
QPR: Alex Smithies 6, Nedum Onuoha 6, Grant Hall 6, Joel Lynch 6, Jake Bidwell 6, Luke Freeman 7, Ryan Manning 7, Darnell Furlong 6, Conor Washington 7 (Yeni N’Gbakoto 85, N/A), Matt Smith 7 (Idrissa Sylla 80, N/A), Pawel Wszolek 6 (Kazenga Lua Lua 85, N/A).
Subs not used: Matt Ingram, James Perch, Massimo Luongo, James Mackie.
Goals: Smith 18, Washington 47, Sylla 84, N’Gbakoto 88.
Yellow cards: Bidwell, Manning, Lynch.
Referee: Andy Davies 4: As I believe I’ve said before in previous reports, the referee was not responsible for this dreadful result. However, this official was one of the worst I’ve seen for a long time. He got far too many decisions wrong for both sides and his inconsistency regarding the issuing of yellow cards incensed the crowd and frustrated the players causing one or two to get themselves in the book for dissent.