Birmingham City 1-1 Newcastle United – Report By Jake

Posted on March 19, 2008 
Filed Under Reports By Jake

The nerves are showing. In the players, in the fans. No matter how hard Blues try three points have eluded them once again. Exciting it may be, with a little more guile and thought Blues have let slip of winnable situations too often for it to be coincidence.

Last night, on a cold evening, it was the visitors, seemingly under the greater pre-match pressure, who rose more to the challenge. Forget the “star” names in the Newcastle team they played to their strengths and could, and maybe should, have won.

Blues can be so frustrating at times. Alex McLeish has bought wisely with James McFadden rising to the challenge of being a bigger name in a less successful team and David Murphy looks every inch a Premiership footballer. The manager though must be tearing his hair out with the unpredictability of his team. After the resounding performance against Tottenham where McFadden and Mikael Forssell were outstanding there were too many long, hopefull balls to a front pairing whose qualities are when the ball is passed to feet. Newcastle’s defence looked shaky when put under pressure yet Blues, in a disjointed performance, failed to use this to their strengths.

Was it really a game of two halves? Admittedly Blues created the better chances in the first half yet over the course of the game how many times did Steve Harper have a serious save to make? Newcastle lacked confidence in the final third initially yet always looked capable of producing chances against a team that has has not kept a clean sheet in the league for eleven games.

Was the enforced substitution of Seb Larsson at half time a turning point? Whilst the Swedish international was missed, why was he replaced by a defender and not an international midfielder in Mehdi Nafti, who in the first half season was arguably our best midfielder and seems to be now falling down the manager’s pecking order? With Johnson able to play wide the balance of the midfield would not have been disturbed as much. Many fans seem to be impressed with Alex McLeish. This writer remains unconvinced. The failure at home to Derby to use substitutes at the right times may cost us. It is these games that carry the greater weight for Blues and once again playing a team in the relegation matter has failed to produce a win.

With McFadden prominent I felt he was outshone by Fabrice Muamba. It is easy to forget his age and relative lack of experience at the highest level yet his willingness to drive the team and his improving skills make him a key player for the last few games. Last season at this stage Muamba rose to the ocassion and at times on Monday he was the only Blues player who looked like scoring. His break up play of the opposition attacks can go unnoticed. Give me a Muamba over a Joey Barton any day of the week.

Blues need to win at least one more away game, probably two. Would you bring Martin Taylor back? Too many individual defensive errors have resulted in us conceding “cheap” goals and we lack a player with the confidence to pass the ball from centre half consistently.

How many points will a club need to survive this season. My guess is thirty eight. When needs must the relegation haunted teams pick up towards the end of a season. It is any two from Fulham, Bolton, us, Sunderland and Reading for me. We cannot rely on Sunderland and Bolton to keep slipping up like recent weeks.

Do Blues play better away? Bar the Sunderland horror show maybe so. The games at Reading and Fulham and to a lesser extent Wigan are going to be tense for all concerned.

Blues failed to grasp the opportunity when in an ideal situation like last night. They will need to show the determination and bravery that Newcastle showed, the forward passing like our strikers showed against Tottenham and the defensive concentration like, dare I say it, Wigan now have. We will only have ourselves to blame. The chances are there.

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You have arrived at the archive site of the Birmingham City blog Joys & Sorrows. If you were looking for fresh, meaty stuff then this way, please.

This section of the site covers the blog portion of J&S from 26th April 2006 - when the site returned after a catastrophic hosting failure causing the loss of over 500 articles - to 28th April 2008 - when I decided to have a prolonged rest from the site.

Here, if it so takes your fancy, you can find every single article, totalling over 1,000, written by myself and many others over that two year period.

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I decided to archive them in this way because I wanted to start something fresh for the main part of the site. Hopefully you'll be able to see that up on the main portion of the site now.

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- Aff, 03/08/08.