As I rather expected, we approached this game already in the bottom three. My relatively pessimistic report from last week hasn’t proved to be too wide of the mark. Five defeats in the first seven games is the sort of start I was dreading although – from what I managed to stream of the Leeds game and the subsequent reports afterwards – Blues played the hosts off the park in the second half but we still lost 2-0 and we find ourselves with the proverbial mountain to climb. I met Steve, the Reading fan, on the train from Blackwater on his way to link up with his mates to go on to their game at Brentford. He remarked as to how poor we were against them at St Andrews recently and was scratching his head given that he feels the Royals are so poor themselves. They have 7 points and think they have problems! The injuries to Jota and Che Adams have come at the worst possible time and so any optimism for us despite the better showing on Tuesday is in short supply. My journey was made more difficult this week by the necessity to catch a bus from Reading to Didcot Parkway before resuming the train to Coventry. Chris was back from holiday in France and so it was good to have him and little Jack back where they belong on a Saturday afternoon. Underway on the train I received a text message that was a photo of a tweet that suggested that a certain football club whose home is somewhere the other side of the expressway, was about to go into administration on account of the fact the club couldn’t pay its players their wages in August! It appeared to come from BBC News but on checking it seems that it was an example of ‘fake news.’ Nevertheless, it was fun for a while and if the other lot carry on with their form, their fickle crowds will dwindle and who knows? 😀
Yes, we need to buck our own ideas up but our support doesn’t abandon the team when things are not great; we’re used to it after all and at least Blues are showing signs of improvement! I arrived in Coventry at 12.25 and it was back to the Oak for a quiet pint before heading off to the game.
This was the proverbial game of two halves. Blues were excellent in the first period and were deservedly ahead with just over half an hour gone when Maxime Colin bamboozled his opposing full back, burrowed into the area and buried a rasping shot in at the near post. In truth Blues were completely in control by half time and I honestly believed they would go on and win comfortably. Redknapp had had to shuffle the pack again given the unfortunate injuries to Jota and Che Adams.
Jacques Maghoma had come in alongside Ndoye and Lowe. Sadly, Jason Lowe had to leave the field after only two minutes due to injury to be replaced by Liam Walsh. Jacques Maghoma was one of the few to come out of the whole game with credit. Paul Huntington was struggling with his pace and repeatedly brought him down. The referee did nothing about it and saved his first yellow card for David Davis who performed a perfectly timed legal tackle! Overall, Blues were the better side and it looked as if Preston were there for the taking at half time. Now I don’t know what Harry Redknapp said to them at the break or possibly what the Preston manager said to his players but it was a completely different scenario after the recess. Preston came out with more energy, tempo and purpose and we failed to respond. The turning point in the game came on 55 minutes when Daniel Johnson picked up the ball in midfield for Preston and drove forward. Backing off to regain shape is fine as far as it goes but there comes a time when someone has to put pressure on the man with the ball. Johnson was allowed to keep coming and he took up the opportunity to slam the ball into Stockdale’s bottom right hand corner. A game that Blues had previously controlled disappeared from their grasp in 12 minutes when the defending can only be described as execrable. Colin who had had a great match up until the hour mark dwelt on the ball too long, was robbed and Hugill (you remember that bloke we tried to buy a few weeks ago?) slotted the second to turn the game on its head.
On 67 minutes our defence went AWOL, allowing Sean Maguire to waltz through the centre of the defence and rather than score himself he generously passed to an equally unmarked Barkhuizen to net from close range for a goal my granny could have scored! The worst thing of all is – like far too many games this season – we showed no signs that we could get back into the game after we went behind and in fact we looked a beaten side when they equalised. We simply cannot keep a clean sheet and unless we figure out how to do that, we are looking at leaving the Championship in the wrong direction. With the squad we now have that is unacceptable. As for Preston, they are resolute, physical, quick and workmanlike but I don’t see them as top six ultimately. This was the easiest win they will enjoy all season and their noisy following loved it. Preston had not won an away game in 15 attempts; you would never have believed it on their second half performance. I accept they played very well after half time but they didn’t have to work for any of their goals; they were gift-wrapped and Christmas is three months away! They should enjoy it while they can, there are better teams than us who will put them to the sword and certainly defend better than we did today.
The Good: The first half performance. Plenty of drive, pace, good passing and control. Cracking goal from Maxime Colin. Excellent balti curry on the menu.
The Bad: The second half performance! There was nothing positive to take out of this. It was shocking defending and total lack of fight when things did turn against us. This is becoming a recurring pattern which has to stop and soon otherwise we may as well accept a relegation fight now.
The Ugly: Daniel Johnson’s ‘shush’ gesture with his finger to his lips having equalised. There is no call for this imbecilic, inflammatory and crass stupidity and he was rightly booked for it. Celebrate a goal by all means but do it in the right manner with your own fans. There is no excuse for crowd incitement and personally I feel this should be a red card offence. It has to be stamped out.
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 6, Maxime Colin 6, Harlee Dean 5, Michael Morrison 5, Emilio Nsue 7, Jason Lowe N/A (Liam Walsh 2, 6), Cheikh Ndoye 7 (Lukas Jutkiewicz 68, 5), David Davis 6, Jeremie Boga 7, Sam Gallagher 5 (Isaac Vassell 61, 6 ), Jacques Maghoma 7.
Subs not used: Marc Roberts, Tomas Kusczcak, Craig Gardner, Cohen Bramall.
Goals: Colin 31.
Yellow cards: Davis, Maghoma.
Preston North End: Chris Maxwell 5, Callum Woods 6 (Marnick Vermijl 80, N/A), Paul Huntington 7, Ben Davies 6, Josh Earl 6, Alan Browne 7, Daniel Johnson 7 (Callum Robinson 90+2, N/A), Sean Maguire 7, Josh Harrop 6 (John Welsh 69, 6), Jordan Hugill 6, Tom Barkhuizen 6.
Subs not used: Matthew Hudson, Stephy Mavididi, Daryl Horgan, Tommy Spurr.
Goals: Johnson 55, Hugill 59, Barkhuizen 67.
Yellow cards: Hugill, Earl, Johnson, Welsh.
Referee: Keith Stroud 3: an abysmal performance by this official. Preston committed 18 fouls in the match to Blues’ 7. How Hugill stayed on the pitch following his elbow on David Stockdale in the first half is beyond me. Paul Huntingdon repeatedly fouled Maghoma as he couldn’t cope with the pace and a shocking challenge in the first half went unpunished then two minutes later he booked David Davis for a superb tackle taking the ball cleanly and the same can be said for Maghoma’s booking later in the game which was virtually identical. At least you could say the referee was consistently inept. The reason for these aberrations was down to poor positioning. Worst official I’ve seen all season without doubt. I hasten to add he is not the reason Blues lost; that was down to terrible defending or the lack of.
At the time of writing this report, the news came through that Harry Redknapp had been sacked and Kevin Bond had also departed. It seems we are to be managed by Lee Carsley for the foreseeable future. One would hope that it can’t get any worse but this season’s aim is damage limitation already in my opinion.