I woke up early on a sunny Saturday morning, not because of any perceived anticipation for the start of the new season but merely due to the fact that as I’ve got older, I’ve tended to need less sleep and I’ve never been one for laying around in bed once awake. I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic or pessimistic but like many I’m not under any illusions that our beloved team will be pulling up trees in the Championship this term unless there is a radical change in fortunes regarding the strengthening of the squad. Whilst the players we’ve acquired so far is encouraging I cannot see where the goals are going to come from and from what I’ve seen of pre-season at Oxford and home to Swansea there isn’t exactly a lot to be optimistic about. However, under Harry’s guidance, we will be a lot better than last year although it has to be said that is not exactly difficult! I doubt however that we have the resources to mount a play-off challenge but we tend to punch above our weight before Christmas and with another month left of the transfer window, you never know; look at the experience of Huddersfield; who realistically fancied them this time last year? I seem to recall that they were one of the tips to go down!
In true military fashion I had completed the three Ss and I was downstairs breakfasted by 7 am and crossword completed, I moved out into the garden and cut the back lawn making it a job that I won’t have to do tomorrow. The greenhouse plants watered and equipment put away, I picked sweet peas for Mrs Bazza. She loves their fragrance and simple beauty and I have to say they have the capacity to lift the soul. They say time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and it was soon time to move off down to the station to catch my train. London Waterloo is disrupted with major platform alterations taking place so I chose the alternative route via Reading, Paddington, Liverpool Street and from there, Ipswich. Despite the changes, I usually find the journey to Suffolk fairly painless and the pub is right outside the station and the ground a matter of a few hundred yards further on. I was hoping to catch the 10.31 only to find it cancelled at the last minute due to signalling failure. Fortunately, for me at least, the 10.02 was delayed by 35 minutes and was in any case the only show in town so I wasn’t delayed too much but it arrived just in time to miss my connection at Reading. Once again it wasn’t so bad as I caught a train running over an hour late (crack in a bridge by all accounts) which was Paddington only and I remained pretty much on schedule.
I arrived at Ipswich as I expected at just before quarter to two. There was time for a couple of pints before walking down to the ground just when the heavens decided to open. We all got very wet! There wasn’t time to grab a pie so I thought I’d wait until half time which proved to be a mistake since the catering area ran out of hot food at that stage. The game itself, in the first half at least promised an opening day win for Blues who were largely on top in the first period and really should have gone ahead just before the break when Donaldson broke the offside trap but failed to keep his chip over the keeper on target. This was to prove a costly miss as following several last ditch clearances from desperate Ipswich defenders in the first couple of minutes of the second half the ultimate clearing pass resulted in a fast break and their only real chance of the game which was a side foot finish from close range against the run of play. Frankly, Blues crumbled after that and showed no sign they could score against an Ipswich team that remain a below average Championship team which augurs badly for us. I hate to say this readers but nothing has changed over the summer. We will struggle to score enough goals with the present personnel to mount any sort of decent campaign and we lack pace and width out wide. We aren’t good enough, plain and simple.
Blues dominated the first half and Michael Morrison offered the first threat from a long throw in from Roberts but couldn’t direct his header past Bialkowski who save well at the foot of the post. Nsue struck a fierce shot moments later but this was well blocked for a corner. Ipswich were largely on the back foot but did manage a weak attempt from a corner which Stockdale saved easily. Grant Ward did manage to run on to a through ball midway through the half but could only stab wide on the stretch. Blues were still having the better of it without really obtaining clear cut chances but there were a series of half chances created for Roberts, Adams and Davis until the best chance of the game just before half time when Donaldson missed his opportunity; score that and I suspect Birmingham go on and win.
Early in the second half Blues seemed to have continued where they left off and a flurry of chances pinging about the Ipswich box frustratingly led to Ipswich clearing their lines. They broke quickly down the left with Jonas Knudsen supplying a low swift cross across our six yard box. Joe Garner made no mistake from close in to give Ipswich an undeserved lead against the run of play. Sadly, after that Blues never recovered their previous composure and started lumping it forward more in hope than expectation. However, a good through ball to Donaldson had the forward in the clear but he was felled by Jordan Spence. Despite the 2,000 Birmingham contingent baying for the defender’s dismissal he only received a yellow card. It was a debatable decision but you could argue that Roberts committed a similar offence late on and met with the same punishment so at least the referee was consistent. There were one or two fleeting attempts by Blues to get back into the game but Ipswich were allowed to see out the match far too easily and could easily have doubled their lead on 77 minutes when Freddie Sears missed a sitter from close range. Cheick Keita replaced Maghoma on 79 minutes which was at least ten minutes later than the change should have happened in my opinion. The fact that Harry Redknapp only made the one change suggests he didn’t feel there was another change available capable of making an impact which is very worrying going forward.
The Good: The early morning sunshine, the peace and quiet, the birds singing, the smell of the cut grass first thing.
The Bad: The weather just before kick off, the catering in the ground running out of hot food. The result, obviously, against a poor Ipswich team that is unlikely to feature in the upper reaches of the division. An unpleasant looking injury to the host’s England U19 player, Andre Dozzell at the end of the first half. I suspect it’s serious given the time and care taken removing him from the pitch; Speedy recovery chap.
The Ugly: The season ahead unless the squad is strategically strengthened; we have no firepower, no width and not enough pace.
Ipswich Town: Bartosz Bialkowski 6, Jonas Knudsen 6, Jordan Spence 6, Luke Chambers 6, Luke Chambers 6, Dominic Iorfa 6 (Adam Webster 74, 6) Tommy Smith 7, Cole Skuse 7, Andre Dozzell 7 (Flynn Downes 45 + 3, 6) Grant Ward 6, Joe Garner 7, Freddie Sears 7.
Subs not used: Dean Gerken, Bersant Celina, David McGoldrick, Tristan Nydam, Myles Kenlock.
Goals: Garner 49.
Yellow cards: Spence.
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 6, Emilio Nsue 7, Michael Morrison 6, Marc Roberts 7, Jonathan Grounds 6, Cheikh Ndoye 7 Craig Gardner 5, David Davis 6, Jacques Maghoma 5 (Cheick Keita 79, 5) Clayton Donaldson 6, Che Adams 7.
Subs not used: Tomasz Kuszczak, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Nicolai Brock-Madsen, Stephen Gleeson, Wes Harding, Ryan Shotton.
Yellow cards: Roberts
Referee: Tim Robinson: 6; I thought the referee had a pretty solid game. The foul by Spence on Donaldson was highly debatable and another official would probably have dismissed the defender but frankly I doubt we would have scored even then. The similar offence against Roberts was so late as to have made precious little difference and as I’ve said, the official was consistent and therefore fair to both sides.
Attendance: 18,153 (2,012 away fans)