I didn’t go to the game and some would say that I am part of the problem but in my defence I am a season ticket holder and I had originally intended to go had the football been played at the right and proper time of three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon which is when football should always be played in my opinion. However we live in a commercial world and therefore kick-off times get moved to cater for the all-consuming demands of the media. I spent Saturday afternoon doing one or two jobs around the house that I’ve been putting off for some time and I started a project restoring a beautiful Victorian dressing table made of mahogany that some Philistine has in the past daubed in paint of an indescribably ugly colour. I estimate that I’m embarking upon an 18 month project to restore this piece of furniture to its former glory.
Kick-off time soon rolled around and I switched on to watch the game on the television. The crowd was very small, unsurprisingly, given the late kick-off time and the fact that people could watch the game in the pub and who could blame them. As I say I would ordinarily have gone to the match but just occasionally fate smiles on you and deals you a good turn. Thank heavens I decided not to make the long journey north to Birmingham to watch this! Before the game I was confident that Blues would win this match when it became obvious after the first ten minutes that it was going to be a long afternoon. In a game which Barnsley totally dominated in every single department of the match Blues completely failed to threaten the Barnsley goal. The visitors on the other hand probably this morning still cannot believe that they came up against opponents so lacking in spirit, drive, passion, work ethic, pride, competence and basic know-how.
Blues were completely and utterly outplayed, out thought, outmanoeuvred, outclassed and humiliated by a Barnsley team who were made to look far better than in reality they are but in saying that I’m taking nothing away from their performance which was magnificent in the context of the game. They did the basics of passing to a team colleague closing down the space when Blues did fleetingly gain possession showed heart and commitment in winning the ball back and in the second half blitzed us with five goals in 23 minutes. No one, least of all me, can say the Barnsley did not thoroughly deserve this spanking victory which in truth could have been doubled in its margin. The visitors should have been at least 2-0 to the good at half-time had Dagnall not come up against young Jack Butland who was the one Birmingham player to come out of this shambles of a performance with any credit whatsoever. Dagnall also hit the post in the second half and could with a little more fortune have scored at least twice more himself in the second half.
Barnsley’s first goal five minutes after the restart came about from a corner conceded by Jonathan Spector nervously slicing an attempted volley backwards when trying to clear a routine cross. The delivery was first missed by Ibanez and then by Mullins who once again put in a dreadful performance filling in at full-back in place of the injured Paul Caddis. It did not change the fact that Mullins like virtually every other Birmingham player to be fair could not pass the ball straight a mere five yards to a team mate. Barnsley in contrast, seemed able to find their men at will. The Barnsley back four who were not tested all afternoon were able to look up and knock balls 30 yards forwards into midfield time and time again without a Blues player being anywhere near intercepting. Our midfielders did not get close enough to their players, apply any pressure on the ball and some of the tackling was powder puff to say the least. Foster for Barnsley had the easiest task in the world in tapping in from 3 yards out when the ball finally arrived at the far post for him.
In recent times, Birmingham City of woken up from their stupor and started to play. The team once described by Barry Fry as a sleeping giant merely turned over and snored on. If the first goal was pathetic, the second one would have been comical had situation not been so serious. A routine pass out of defence to Ambrose in midfield was seized upon by a Barnsley midfielder snapping at his heels and compounded by the fact that Ambrose turned the wrong way. Ambrose fell to the floor and bleated to the referee about a free kick. The man in the middle was singularly unimpressed and so was I as the ball was now delivered to lifelong Birmingham supporter Davies to score the first of his four goals of the afternoon.
Blues went three at the back with Mullins withdrawn and replaced by Nathan Redmond. Nikola Zigic also came on for Leroy Lita who like his strike partner Marlon King had been starved of anything resembling service all afternoon. Needless to say, the changes were spectacularly unsuccessful as Barnsley now full of confidence and why shouldn’t they be against the team playing like a bunch of seven-year-olds carved through us like a knife through butter. It was embarrassing and painful to watch as Barnsley filled their boots and Davies completed his hat-trick and one more with finishes that were far too easy to complete due to any lack of organisation or challenge defensively.
I saw my first match at St Andrews in 1963 so next year will be my 50th following Birmingham City. There have been low moments and I believe I have mentioned on this blog before that two performances stick out above all others as being particularly dire; a home match against Oxford United circa 1968 when big Ron Atkinson was playing on the wing for Oxford (so picture the standard of that game if you will) Blues were so bad losing 0-1 that I did not believe I could ever see anything worse. I was wrong. About five years ago we played Norwich City at home in a midweek game. Both teams dished up absolute dross but the visitors snatched the goal to win the game. So bad was the performance from both teams that night that it lingers painfully my memory. Then we come to last evening’s performance which by far surpasses these two games put together in terms of awfulness. In defeat, teams can very often take something positive from a performance to take forward into the next game accepting that the negative things need to be worked on. I cannot think of one single aspect of this game that gives me any cause for optimism going forward. This pathetic apology for a football performance was shameful, humiliating, embarrassing and utterly disgraceful and apart from young Jack Butland in goal every other player who pulled on a Birmingham shirt last night should be hanging their heads in shame this morning. Everything that could go wrong for Blues did go wrong; Murphy unfortunately had to come off early for a hamstring strain to be replaced by Jonathan Spector dropping back from midfield, Marlon King pulled up with a hamstring strain towards the end and was a passenger and Pablo Ibanez broke a bone in his foot and had to go off leading us down to 9 men plus Marlon.
Made no mistake, Barnsley had already soundly beaten the eleven so-called men of Birmingham City before these mishaps occurred. Barnsley were excellent all the way through but it cannot be disguised that Blues made it so exceedingly easy for them to play the kind of football they did. It is fortunate that Barnsley either took pity on their opponents in the last 10 minutes or merely knocked the ball around without relinquishing possession by way of taking the p**s. Excellent and thoroughly deserving though the Tykes were their fans should not get too carried away. I doubt very much that they will come up against such an inept team as us for the rest of this season. Nevertheless, Bravo Barnsley; you were the better team for every single second of this game; 69% possession, 16 attempts, 11 on target; we had 3 with one on target!
The Good: Barnsley’s excellent performance.
The Bad: See above for details.
The Ugly: It is the realisation of that I have a ticket for the Brighton game next Saturday!
Birmingham City: Jack Butland 6; Hayden Mullins 2 (Nathan Redmond 55, 4), Steven Caldwell 3, Pablo Ibanez 3, David Murphy 5 (Darren Ambrose 25, 2); Chris Burke 3, Jonathan Spector 4, Keith Fahey 3, Wade Elliott 3; Leroy Lita 4 (Nikola Zigic 61, 5), Marlon King 4.
Subs (not used): Colin Doyle, Curtis Davies, Peter Lovenkrands, Ravel Morrison.
Barnsley: Ben Alnwick N/A*; Tom Kennedy 7, Stephen Foster 8, Scott Wiseman 7, Scott Golbourne 7; Stephen Dawson 7, Martin Crainie 7, Jacob Mellis 8, Tomasz Cywka 8; Chris Dagnall 9, Craig Davies 10 (Marlon Harewood 85, N/A).
* didn’t score the keeper as he simply wasn’t tested!
Subs (not used): Luke Steele, Matt Done, David Perkins, Kelvin Etuhu, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Danny Rose.
Goal: Foster (50), Davies (53, 60, 65, 73)
Referee: Darren Drysdale 8: I thought the referee handled the game and the little flash point towards the end involving Nathan Redmond and the Barnsley defenders well. Booked the pair of them and got on with the game; no nonsense; good officiating.
Attendance: 13,893 (295 Barnsley fans)