Mrs Bazza and I have just returned from a trip to Australia. We got back last Saturday and I’ve missed a number of matches since leaving these shores including the Cup replay, the Villa game and the Millwall debacle. I couldn’t get to see the match against Vile as despite having SKY Go it would not allow access for geographical reasons not that I missed much by all accounts. The first game back was Brentford on Tuesday night. I didn’t get away from work as early as I would have liked but that shouldn’t have made much difference. Sadly, I seemed to hit every red light on the way back and every clueless chancer jumping across junctions thinking they could make it only to block the yellow box and hold up prevailing traffic. These things always seem to happen when you’re in a hurry and I was just in time to be too late for the train I wanted to get from Blackwater. In some ways it was just as well I did because on checking the time of the next one it appeared that there was a trespasser on the line at Ascot with subsequent delays. As I surmised at the time, someone had jumped in front of a train and the inevitable fatality had ground the network to a halt. I quickly changed my route to go via Clapham Junction from Farnborough but that meant getting in the car to the station and the rush hour was now in full swing and every dozy idiot was out on the road and made sure that I missed the six o’clock by about two minutes. The quarter past was still fine but was a slow one and would mean that I didn’t make it to Brentford until about five minutes before kick off. Chris had the tickets and I met him at the turnstiles and took our seats just as the game kicked off.
Enough has been said about the thrashing we took at the hands of the West Londoners and the expected hyperbole has abounded in the press and on line. Look, no one needs me to tell them that this was a dispiriting, crushing defeat caused in the main by defending so bad it would have looked bad over the park with the Dog and Duck playing. I try not to get too carried away by high scoring wins or losses since every now and again they happen for no other reason than a team puts away all the opportunities they create. When you think about it, we have all been to games where in the first twenty minutes a team may fashion half a dozen good chances but at the end of the said period the score is still 0-0. Sometimes, the opposite happens and the score ends up 4-0 or 5-0 and the losing side can then end up taking a pasting; the game against Reading a couple of seasons ago springs to mind. I still say we didn’t deserve to win that one 6-1 but we did. Tuesday’s game was a little like that. We played OK until Stockdale, who had a mare, allowed a shot he would normally save, squirm under his hand and inside the post. However, his defenders backed off and let the guy have the shot. The second was due to Lowe (who had a mare) getting caught in possession in the centre circle leading to a three on one. The ball was popped off to the left but the Brentford attacker’s touch was heavy and forced him wide. The two defenders who were now back should have dealt with it but both went to the man as did Stockdale giving the attacker an easy finish as all he had to do was get it past the trio of players none of whom properly committed.
At half time, tired, hungry and thirsty I went down to the catering kiosk, policed by a couple of officious, stroppy, disagreeable stewards directing people to the back of a queue that was neither clear nor logical only to discover that the kiosk had run out of hot food apart from a sausage roll the size of a rat’s dick. I bought two teas and a sausage roll and headed back towards to stairs only to be confronted by another clueless steward who demanded to see my ticket. There I am with my hands full and this numpty suggesting that he could hold the cups of tea as he hadn’t got germs. I told him that I had made no aspersions that he had but asked how the hell he thought I had got in in the first place! I put the teas down on the floor and produced my ticket whereupon I was allowed to proceed. The sausage roll was hardly filling but the hot tea was welcome. After an initial flurry and Sam Gallagher missing a sitter we went three down to an own goal from Roberts (who had a mare). Worse was to follow as Stockdale went to collect a routine ball only to slip and present the ball to their centre forward who duly gave it to a mate for a tap in. Ten minutes from time Chris and I decided to head off for an earlier train. We heard the roar for the fifth as we walked towards the station and it capped off a wonderful evening (not!) The only positive was that we were not yet back in the bottom three at the end of it all!
So back to the present; the game against Barnsley was a must win in my opinion. Anything less and it would be difficult to see how we could get out of the predicament we find ourselves in. Saturday dawned bright and sunny but with a bitter northerly wind in my face as I made out for the station. My journey was smooth and I arrived at the normal time at Coventry where Chris picked me up. I enjoyed a pint at Baginton before we set off for St Andrews. The food at the Cookhouse was good; braised beef with diced spuds. That’s the positives to take out of the afternoon. The first half performance was awful. There are simply not enough negative superlatives to describe the utter tripe we witnessed. Blues conceded an abysmal goal after only 12 minutes when Thiam out on the wing was allowed to cross from a throw in to him with our defenders ball watching. Oliver McBurnie in splendid isolation in the middle of our box guided the volley from the cross the short distance past Stockdale for 1-0. Marc Roberts then upended the goalscorer five minutes later in the area for a clear penalty. McBurnie fired a low shot to Stockdale’s left but the keeper made up for his poor performance on Tuesday by pushing the ball wide for a corner. Sadly, his efforts were to prove futile when McBurnie redressed the balance by netting from inches out just after the half hour from another bout of shambolic defending. Another two soft goals conceded along with the match and the points against a team lying 23rd in the league.
Blues did create an excellent chance early on before Barnsley scored when Che Adams bang in the centre of goal ten yards out side footed into the keeper when any reasonable elevation would have seen us in front. Barnsley are a poor team but they outplayed Blues comprehensively and all they had to do was soak up what pressure we were able to muster in the second half as we predictably hoofed the ball up to Gallagher from deep or attempted to play through their packed defence with not enough width. When we did attempt to get it wide mainly through Jenkinson who I thought was our best player we couldn’t get a telling attempt on goal. The problem is whenever we do get a cross in we have no one capable of heading a ball and Barnsley’s tall defenders won everything in the air. Indeed they were first to every second ball, every breakdown and every 50-50 challenge. We did carve out three or four chances throughout the game which were either blocked or put straight at the keeper. This game summed up the season; gift the opposition goals because we don’t know how to defend properly and miss gilt edged chances when they do crop up. Once again Barnsley didn’t have to work hard to score their goals just as at Brentford. The main difference is, Brentford are a decent side.
The Good: There will be a number of different venues to visit next season.
The Bad: Perm any number from about twenty things.
The Ugly: The thought that things are going to get worse yet.
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 7, Maxime Colin 6, Marc Roberts 5, Harlee Dean 5, Carl Jenkinson 7 (Cohen Brammall 83, N/A) Craig Gardner 5, Cheick N’Doye 5 (Jota 76, 4) Che Adams 5, Jacques Maghoma 5, Jeremie Boga 5, Sam Gallagher 6.
Subs not used: Jason Lowe, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Conor Trueman, Michael Morrison.
Yellow cards: Gallagher 24, Gardner 32, Dean 74.
Barnsley: Nick Townsend 6, Andy Yiadom 6, Adam Jackson 6, Liam Lindsay 6, Zeki Fryers 6, Brad Potts 6, Joe Williams 7, Gary Gardner 7 (Matty Pearson 87, N/A) Mamadou Thiam 6 (Connor Mahoney 60, 6) Kieffer Moore 7, Oliver McBurnie 8 (Christophe Knasmullner 77, 6)
Subs not used: Adam Davies, Dimitre Cavare, George Moncur, Tom Bradshaw.
Goals: McBurnie 12, 36.
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson 6; nothing particularly to report about the referee. Competent throughout. Right to award Barnsley their penalty. Good save from Stockdale so it could have been worse.