You know that feeling when your bladder is full up to your neck and you’re standing at the porcelain awaiting the warm flow of relief? Well, fortunately for me, I awoke just in time! I leapt out of bed and made the bathroom with just enough time to spare and it was a chilly morn and no mistake! Abluted, washed, shaved and breakfasted, it was off to the station in time for the 10.31 train from Blackwater to Reading. I’d rung Chris to tell him I would be arriving at Coventry at just before 12.30 and it was from there that we went to pick up little Jack before proceeding to St Andrews.
It was good to be back in the league football routine after the even more routine completion of the national side’s qualification programme. Whilst I’m pleased England are in the finals again with a top seeding, like many I suspect, I’m under no illusions as to the task ahead next summer. Our nation’s tournament performances in a number of sports have been pretty non-descript although I feel the girls have done us proud in football, rugby, hockey and cricket in recent times although the Ashes series was disappointing for the latter. As for the boys; well, could do better is on the report card. That is something for next year; back to the here and now. Blues were coming into this match on the back of two good wins away from home at Brentford and Leeds. One telling statistic in both games was how little possession we had in both matches but how productive we were compared to our opponents in terms of chances created and taken. Despite only having one third of the ball we compared favourably with the respective hosts and beat both comfortably with clean sheets to boot.
Somehow, I wasn’t feeling confident about the forthcoming encounter but perversely there was one positive thread that was playing on my mind. We had lost our last two home matches against Forest and Rotherham failing to score on either occasion. Forest especially made no attempt to play football, sneaked a winner which should have been chalked off for a clear foul and then stifled the life out of the game. One commentator on one of the blogs in the week had made the point that QPR had scored more goals than anyone in the Championship on their travels but conceded freely as well. They have attacking assets that most other teams would love to possess in Emmanuel-Thomas, Chery, Mackie and Austin and are clearly set up to attack, so strangely enough it would take some of the onus off Birmingham to try and break down a nine man rearguard at home since QPR tend to push their wing backs on. Well it remained to be seen. After a pre-match drink and a bite to eat at the Cookhouse (chicken stir fry with noodles) it was time for the game itself.
Blues played better than I expected but not as well as I know they can. After a cagey start by both sides I felt that Birmingham were starting to control events when almost out of nothing, QPR scored against the run of play. It was a fluke. Matt Phillips shouldn’t have been able to turn in the box and get his shot off but the deflection off Jonathan Grounds turned the ball ninety degrees from probably wide of the far post to centre of the net with Kuczcak diving to cover the original strike which I believe he had covered. Birmingham certainly didn’t deserve to be 1-0 down but what I really liked was Paul Caddis’s attitude; he picked the ball out of the back of the net and returning with it to the centre circle was geeing up his team mates all the way and the effect was almost tangible. With the clapping hands of club captain Paul Robinson adding to the morale boosting effort, the team seemed to grow another six inches, chests puffed out and chins were elevated. It was a ‘we may lose but NOT TODAY’ moment.
1-0 behind on 18 minutes, it was 1-1 after half an hour. James Perch committed a simply horrible tackle on Jacques Maghoma 30 yards out on the left wing and by rights this was a red card. A yellow was dispensed but it was poetic justice that a superb delivery that the injured David Cotterill would have been proud of by Demarai Gray was headed powerfully past the helpless Rob Green by Paul Robinson who was having one of the best performances in a Blues shirt in his time at the club; his first league goal for Birmingham was fitting reward. Blues thus went into halftime in a position of parity.
Blues took complete control in the second half and were rewarded for their efforts with a winner from the penalty spot by Paul Caddis for the most blatant shove in the back on Clayton Donaldson you will ever see by Onuhoa. The referee had a ringside seat for that one and had no hesitation in pointing to the spot as Donaldson went for an inviting cross from Caddis from the right wing. People talk about stonewall penalties; well this one was it. Caddis stepped up and slotted the ball past Green into the bottom left hand corner for a deserved 2-1.
After that, it was all about game management and frankly QPR didn’t do enough to threaten Blues’ supremacy and arguably Blues could have added to their tally on the break especially right at the end when substitute Viv Solomon-Otabor and Clayton Donaldson played a game of ‘after you Claud’ when a strike from either of them might have registered close in front of goal. Donaldson was a whisker away from touching the ball home from a ball whipped in by Gleeson just before the penalty; so the margin of victory could have been more in truth. Nevertheless, this was an excellent win for Blues and thoroughly deserved; whether we can sustain this kind of form remains to be seen but enjoy it while we can.
The Good: Very good performance by Blues. I won’t go over the top since I don’t want to indulge in hyperbole but they controlled the game well having taken the lead which was good to see and didn’t fall apart when they conceded the first goal which was a fluke.
The Bad: Tim Sherwood’s press conference after Vile’s latest effort. What is that guy drinking? Can I have a pint of it? 😀
The Ugly: My journey home! Chris got me to the station for the 16.25 to Reading. It came in at 17.28! This was the time the next one was due. Train operators, just admit you’ve cancelled the damn service rather than making out it’s still running. Missed my connection at Reading and got home two hours late. The real ugly is the letter of protest I’ve just written to the complaints department at CrossCountry Rail Services.
Birmingham City: Tomas Kuczcak 6, Paul Caddis 8, Michael Morrison 7, Paul Robinson 9, Jonathan Grounds 7, Jacques Maghoma 9, Mikael Kieftenbeld 7, David Davis 7 (Andrew Shinnie 74, 6), Stephen Gleeson 7, Demarai Gray 8 (Viv Soloman-Otabor 87, N/A), Clayton Donaldson 7.
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Jon Toral, Jonathan Spector, Shane Lowry, Nicolai Brock-Madsen.
Goals: Robinson, Caddis (pen)
Queens Park Rangers: Robert Green 7, James Perch 5, Nedum Onuoha 6, Grant Hall 6, Paul Konchesky 6, Raniere Sandro 7 (Daniel Toszer 72, 6), Karl Henry 7, Leroy Fer 6 (Massimo Luonogo 71, 6), Matt Phillips 7, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas 6 (Sebastian Polter 84, N/A), Tjaronn Chery 7.
Subs not used: Alex Smithies, Gabriele Angella, Michael Doughty, Alejandro Faurlin.
Goals: Grounds (o.g.)
Bookings: Perch, Onuoha.
Referee: Carl Boyeson; 5: Generally, the decisions were competent but I felt the man in the middle was far too lenient when it came to cautioning players. Perch was very lucky to stay on the field with a truly awful challenge on Maghoma in the first half and he committed two or three other misdemeanours that on any other day would have been deemed worthy of a second yellow and adios! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like seeing players dismissed from the field of play since I think it destroys the spectacle but that doesn’t mean players should be allowed free reign to commit assault. QPR were very physical all afternoon which was reflected in their foul count of 18 compared to 8 for the home side.