VIEW FROM THE SOUTH – BIRMINGHAM CITY vs EVERTON

I met up with Will in Guildford at around 10.30 for the journey north and had the third degree from him because I was a few minutes late. He was revelling in the fact that he had been at our prearranged meeting point on time – a world first! Nevertheless, I had to take the banter full on and we were soon well on the way up the motorway. Will announced that he needed to empty his bladder after only ten miles and I pointed out that he could have availed himself of facilities in the building where I work and the place where we met. He said never mind he’d wait until we got to his brother’s pub to which I replied that the Bagington Oak was a long way for a man whose bladder was tweaking. Impressively, Will did last the course and we made it up to Chris’ place in good time. A pint and an excellent onion bhaji wrap later whilst Will and I lost a couple of quid in the general knowledge battleships and cruisers game in the pub, we were all set to move on to St Andrews.

I had managed to get a discounted ticket for the game which I had given to Will and so he was sitting in the seat directly in front of me. Will’s old school mate Rob and Rob’s girlfriend, Heather joined us and completed our little group. Will immediately started going on about our beloved manger’s tic tacs, his euphemism for tactics on the grounds that they are indecipherable. He complained that once again we had four central midfielders strung across the pitch with not a single naturally left footed player among them, a centre half playing left back and therefore we were too narrow and unbalanced. He was of course absolutely correct and as I believe I mentioned in my last post from the Pompey league game, the glaring problem down our left flank had to be addressed if this very good Everton side were not to exploit us. Clearly the warning had not been heeded. We have been getting away with it against poor opposition such as Pompey and Wigan but Everton, whom we aspire to be like have quick and clever players overseen by a savvy manager who would have needed no degree in football coaching to highlight where our major weakness was. He put Victor Anichebe on Ridgewell and the latter could not cope with the Nigerian born player’s pace, power and strength. Anichebe won everything both on the deck and in the air against Agent Ridgewell so much so that when the latter did eventually win a header in the 42nd minute against the Everton man a loud ironic cheer went up from the stands.

The first twenty-five minutes were the worst I have seen from our side all season. Everton used the guile of Arteta, the skills of Cahill and the pace and artistry of Piennar and strength of Anichebe and Yakubu to dance merry circles around our static defence and narrow midfield that chased vainly after shadows. Piennar fired the first warning shot across our bows with a curling effort that was destined for the far corner before Hart intervened with an excellent full length save. We looked shaky from set pieces and it was a matter of time before Everton scored. Ridgewell was guilty of not getting tight enough to Anichebe and moreover allowing him to turn in our box to unleash a fierce left footed shot into the roof of the net with Hart stranded; truly awful defending compounded four minutes later. Piennar dragged Bowyer wide to the by-line. Bowyer was attempting to fill in for Ridgewell who had tracked Anichebe across to the centre thus vacating the space. The cross was dinked up and over Johnson who got under the ball which allowed Yakubu the easiest goal he will ever score from inches out at the far post; twenty-three minutes and two-nil down and I could only see us playing Bangladesh to their England such was their domination of the game. We were all over the place and to this juncture had been out manoeuvred, out thought, out paced and outplayed. Then within four minutes a huge stroke of luck occurred; an in swinging ball from Fahey towards Jerome somehow nutmegged Jagielka and trickled past the flailing Howard just inside the far post for a lifeline back into a game that we had never been in. Jerome got the faintest of touches having taken a swing at the ball as it went by which was just enough to confuse defender and goalkeeper alike. Suddenly, Blues gained some control and were on the front foot for the first time. Jagielka prevented the equaliser just prior to half time when Dann’s goal bound downward header was diverted for a corner. Everton were relieved in the end to hear the whistle for the break but not before they almost added a third themselves from Baines’ swerving free kick that was brilliantly saved by Hart and gathered at the second attempt.

Blues were much better in the second period and moved the ball quicker and more accurately. A launched ball from Hart was headed down by Jerome to Gardner who swept the ball first time from 18 yards into the bottom corner of the net at the Tilton Road end to the delight of the 24,000 plus crowd. From a train crash of the first quarter of the game the salvage operation was definitely on and 2-2 was the unlikely score-line. I read on one of the Everton blogs this morning that basic defending would have prevented both Birmingham goals and the writer is of course right but Everton’s shortcomings in the defensive error department paled into insignificance compared to the ones committed by Blues and pub team defending would have prevented Everton’s efforts which had naturally been ignored by my fellow blog writer. Proper defending would have rendered this a 0 – 0 stalemate but mistakes are what make football the game it is. Blues were now on top and put the visitors under a fair amount of pressure for twenty minutes or so until the game once more evened out and both teams had a go at snatching the winner. It could have gone either way but in the end both teams settled for a draw. I feel this game illustrated just how far Blues need to go before they can be considered serious contenders for a European place which I still believe is highly unlikely. Everton look the better equipped and are frankly a better side with a stronger squad. Blues can count themselves fortunate to have gained a valuable point especially after such an atrocious start but on the flip side of the coin they are to be congratulated for not throwing in the towel and scrapping their way back into a game that was lost. Two years ago there is no doubt that Everton would have won this game and it is to the great credit of the players, Alex McCleish and his back up team that they have developed a steely resolve to salvage such disasters. Quick wide players (one must be naturally left footed), a proper left back, a top striker (or two) and cover at right back required in the summer and I suspect things will be better next year.

KRO SOTV

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8 Comments on VIEW FROM THE SOUTH – BIRMINGHAM CITY vs EVERTON

  1. A bit too pessimistic for me perhaps the onion bhaji didn’t sit too well.

    You rightly say that Blues weren’t at the game for the first twenty minutes but after that we matched Everton and I felt disaapointed after we got an excellent equaliser that we didn’t go on to win the game.

    Moyes certainly targetted Ridgewell who got very little help from Fahey, it was Boyer who had to do the covering. No question though that after the first half hour he gave Anichibe as good as he got, so much so that Anichibe was taken off in the second half.

    No mention of how well both Jerome and Ferguson played.

    All in all a very entertaining game but a below par report.

    Bear in mind the PL experience of Everton and their players. We’ve played them three times this season and they haven’t beaten us. That deserves some credit surely.

  2. In my opinion also the blog is far too pessimistic. Jerome had a great match but Ferguson was outstanding. Hart ‘s not a bad ‘keeper either. We started badly against a team which has beaten Chelsea,Man U at home & drawn at Arsenal.But to come back from two down was superb.

  3. Thank you for your comments John but Anichebe was trod on accidentally just on the half hour and injured the other ankle before he went off so he had reason to be less effective. I wasn’t sorry to see the back of him for whatever reason. I feel that we got out of jail having conceded two goals to truly dreadful defending and Blues deserve credit for clawing their way back into the game against a very good Everton outfit. I don’t wish to be pessimistic about our chances going forward but I just cannot see us realistically snatching a Europa League place. Also on a completely realistic basis, teams like Everton have more quality in their squad than we presently have in ours which makes the win and two draws against them all the more remarkable. It doesn’t change the fact that pound for pound they are arguably better than us at the moment. You are quite right that Jerome was excellent on Saturday and Barry Fergusson has been consistently our best player all season. As for the article I will try to do better in the future 😛

  4. Your friend thinks that McLeish’s tactics are indecipherable? Has he only been supporting Blues since September and not realise McLeish is the best manager we’ve had in a long time (perhaps ever)? As for Ridgewell, he struggled yesterday but has been superb at left-back this season. I heard the ironic cheers when he won that header and just thought “morons”. You’re right about us not qualifying for Europe but the fact we are talking about it shows how far we have come. Don’t forget we are a newly promoted team who haven’t spent much money. So maybe you and Will can put our season into some sort of perspective, you will appreciate McLeish when he’s gone (tic tacs FFS).

  5. Matt, the wonderful thing about this game is that everyone has their opinions and as I have said before on this blog, I welcome all points of view. Of course I haven’t forgotten that we are a newly promoted team and I fully recognise how well we have come as a club and as a team. No one is a more diehard, dyed in the wool bluenose than me hence my username but I also try to be balanced and realistic. I am a fan of Ridgewell as it happens but I also recognise that he is not a natural full back and that the better teams would exploit us down that flank. I have said this a number of times in my previous reports but he offers a lot going forwards and has strengths to his game as much as weaknesses but if you believe that we can continue with the left back position not being addressed into next season this is naive. His lack of pace, positioning and strength were brutally exposed by Anichebe on Saturday and there is no point in pretending there is not a problem in this important area of the field which I believe McCleish will address in the summer. My mate, Will thinks that McCleish is excellent at picking good players but questions his positioning of them at times. I have to say that I do not entirely agree but he is entitled to his views as you are. The use of his description of tactics as tic tacs is a euphemism to suggest that Big Eck is sometimes wanting in this area and is a little bit of humour (FFS)? However, I feel Alex McCleish probably knows a hell of a lot more about the subject that you and me that’s for sure.

  6. Bazza, thanks for the response. I agree with a lot of your comments but I just thought you had put them across with more of a pessimistic slant than was necessary considering that it was a magnificent comeback from two down.
    I think we all know where the weaknesses are but we managing to hide them pretty well with everyone pulling together.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such team spirit at Blues before, that must have a lot to do with the management of the side.

    Apart from the first tweny minutes I thought we matched Everton when the team woke up and started to pass the ball around.

  7. Hi John, yes I wholly agree with your view that it was a tremendous come back and I didn’t want to give the impression that I was getting down on the team. What I was trying to get across rather than just give yet another account of the game was the fact that excellent though our season has been, better sides like Everton are more capable of exposing our shortcomings than sides in the lower reaches of the Premier League where it is easier to hide deficiencies through good organisation and hard work. I thought the first quarter of the game on Saturday provided a reality check for us all but I would agree that once we scored we were a match for Everton which was pleasing to see. No one doubts the spirit of this Birmingham side and the fact that they never give up augers well for the short to medium term. A draw was fair in the end.

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