John Keats in his poem Ode to Autumn described this part of the year like this:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom friend of the maturing sun,
Conspiring with him how to load and bless,
The vines that round the thatch eaves run.
Those lines conjure up thoughts of warm balmy days of still air, colour and the rich smells of ripening fruit but it was a dank, chilly wet morning that I awoke to Saturday not that it bothered my little Welsh Terrier, Dilys who enjoyed her walk for all that. I reflected on the match to come in the afternoon as Dilys and I slowly progressed through the early morning dew and in all honesty I was not optimistic. The Hoops have by far the strongest squad in the Championship this year and in my opinion will win this league at a canter. We on the other hand; well I don’t think I need to go over it all again but the best we could hope for was a narrow defeat with our dignity intact. Whilst that is exactly as it transpired, it does not tell the whole story but I’ll come to that in a minute
I caught the train from my local station and changed at Reading. The ticket machine at Blackwater was out of service and so I called in at the excess fares office at Reading to obtain a ticket. The bloke behind the counter inquired where I was going noticing that I was bedecked in our latest yellow top. Having told him and of my apprehensions he said that he was a Millwall man and if I thought Birmingham had problems I should try looking at Millwall as they were really c**p. He said, “We would lose a flip up; give us a double-headed coin and we’d still call tails!” I laughed wished him and his team good luck and moved off for my train to Paddington before getting the tube to Shepherd’s Bush.
I called in at the Walkabout pub in Shepherd’s Bush where they have a huge screen that was showing the Manchester United – Crystal Palace game and there were other screens showing the Burnley – Blackburn derby. The sound was a bit loud but other than that it was a pleasant interlude leading up to the game to consume a couple of pints. Mind you the smells of Autumn were anything but in the pub. Where I was standing there was someone close by who had obviously had a dodgy pint and/or kebab the night before. Whoever it was needs to seek medical help; it was the sort of odour that you’d struggle to grow mushrooms on! I decided to continue watching the football on one of the other screens at the other end of the pub and hope that the individual concerned was nowhere near me inside the ground!
As we all now know, we lost 1-0 to the league leaders and that is how history will record the match but the score line fails to tell the true story. QPR got away with three points they didn’t truly deserve and this match summed up what a cruel sport football can be sometimes. Blues played three centre halves but it was more of a 3-4-3 system meaning there was a wide role for Burke and he linked up very well with the returning Paul Caddis. Elliott, Adeyemi and Spector were excellent all afternoon and matched the home side’s expensive and much more vaunted midfield Carroll, Barton, Hoillett and O’Neill. Frankly Birmingham were the better side and QPR looked short of ideas against a resolute tight Blues side defending and pressing well as a unit. Randolf didn’t have a shot to save in the first half and apart from a shot from Carroll that went wide and another effort that was blocked on the edge of the area, QPR’s strikers Zamora and Austin never really threatened us. On the other hand Blues should have gone in at least 2-0 up. Novak was so unlucky to see his glanced header crash back off the post midway through the half only for the rebound to fall to a defender to clear but the best chance of the match came when Adeyemi who for me had his best game in a Blues shirt to date pinched the ball in midfield charged forward and in a flowing move squared for Shinnie running in from deep. Sixteen yards out with only Green to beat, he side-footed the ball just over instead of into the net; this was a dreadful miss which I had a horrible feeling we would come to rue at leisure.
Birmingham started the second period on the front foot and looked to have scored when Spector netted from close range to give Blues a deserved lead. Sadly the effort was chalked off for offside. The wonderful coverage from BBC failed to show any of this and didn’t give any indication as to how close it was but we never get decent coverage of Midlands football in general so what’s new? The inevitable then happened; instead of being comfortably ahead, QPR scored what was to be the winning goal with virtually the only chance they had a minute or so later. From a set piece out wide Wright-Phillips hooked the ball back across from the far post Adeyemi’s block ricocheted off his knee against the underside of the bar. The rebound this time bounced down not to one of our defenders but to Austin standing barely a yard out for the easiest goal he will score all season. This was extremely harsh on Blues but the away fans kept with the team appreciating how well they were playing nevertheless. Blues brought on Fergusson for Shinnie and Lovenkrands for Adeyemi late on changing to a 4-3-3 and going more direct. Their efforts should have gained at least a point when Spector who had fooled Dunne and was clean through was felled by the ex-Villa man in the 79th minute. It was a stonewall penalty which was rejected by the referee who brandished a yellow card to Spector for diving; I’m sorry Mr Jones; you got that decision completely wrong. I am not one for saying ‘we wuz robbed!’ but on this occasion we most certainly were. This incident was as clear a penalty as you would ever wish to see but it wasn’t given and Blues came away with nothing from a game where they deserved at least a point and with better finishing all three.
Blues played really well in this match but once again came out of it with nothing. This is becoming a recurring theme. We lack firepower and we need Zigic back and someone to come in on loan, finances permitting to give us more options. Despite this Blues have to keep playing good football, they have to keep believing and I believe if we continue to play like this our luck has to change. It was a disappointing and desolate journey home but I reflected that it could be so much worse as I passed my earlier acquaintance in the ticket office at Reading; his lot got stuffed 1-5 at home to Derby! As Porky Pig used to say; “That’s All Folks!”
The Good: Really good performance from Birmingham. We did far better than I was expecting and QPR don’t look as good as I thought they would be but they will still be champions come May.
The Bad: The result and our retched luck. The miss by Shinnie and the decision for the penalty.
The Ugly: Whatever it was that the deliverer of the odour in the Walkabout ingested on Friday night; phew!!!
Queens Park Rangers: Green 6 Simpson 6 Dunne 7 Hill 7 Onuoha Carroll 6 (Jenas 82, N/A) Barton 7 Hoillett 6 (Phillips 39, 7) O’Neill 6 Austin 6 Zamora 5 (Wright-Phillips 46, 7)
Subs not used: Murphy, Assou-Ekotto, Henry, Faurlin.
Goal: Austin 48 minutes.
Birmingham City Randolf 7 Robinson 7 Bartley 7 Burn 7 Elliot 7 Spector 7 Adeyemi 8 (Lovenkrands 82, N/A) Caddis 7 Burke 7 Novak 7 Shinnie 6 (Fergusson 55, 6)
Subs not used: Doyle, Ambrose, Reilly, Lee, Brown.
Booked: Robinson, Burn, Spector, Shinnie.
Referee: Mike Jones: 5 Mr Jones was fine for about an hour but lost the plot in the latter part of the match. The penalty decision he failed to award was a shocker and I thought Barton was lucky to still be on the pitch at the end. He could and should have had a second yellow card late on in the first period. He delivered a lovely free kick over the wall late on that nearly gave QPR a second goal but Randolf’s save onto the post prevented a wholly skewed and unfair score line.