It was the end of another working week and Saturday morning was once again upon us. I called Chris early on just to confirm meeting arrangements as usual and he told me that it was just the two of us for this one as little Jack was a groomsman at a wedding in the afternoon. Chris then went on to say that when Jack was about to leave yesterday, he’d asked him, “Have you got your speech ready Jack?” Jack wide-eyed and full of panic replied, “What speech?” Chris and his other Grandfather who was also present naturally kept this wheeze going for a while until the point Jack got upset exclaimed that he wasn’t going. Chris brought him back from the ionosphere at this juncture but it must have been fun whilst it lasted! Apparently, the other groomsmen are all adults and yet little Jack towered above all of them! Little Jack is always going to be little Jack even when he reaches his full height which I reckon could easily be six feet eight given he’s only 12 and already six feet!
The train at Blackwater was on time, the ticket machine was working, the weather was mild and dry and all seemed well with the world; a bit too good to be true in all honesty but I wasn’t about to start fighting it. I duly arrived at Reading, caught my connection to Coventry and met Chris at the appointed time at about 12.25. We went back to the Baginton Oak for a quick scoop before setting off for the ground. We went to the George and it was nice to be able to enjoy a drink at a reasonable pace before going into the ground for a chicken tikka balti curry with naan bread with another beer. Perfect antidote on a cold day.
Blues had won three on the bounce in all competitions but we had our work cut out today with high flying Derby managed by Gary Rowett of course. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be truthful but I suspected that Steve Cotterill would select the same team that had won the aforementioned three games keeping clean sheets in all of them for good measure. It is as the manager said earlier this week, “Clean sheets don’t get beat!” There is no arguing with that. A clean sheet was what I would settle for; anything else was a bonus. Given the season we’ve had, I still don’t feel particularly confident going into games but I didn’t think we would get anything out of the Leeds game but we were the better side and we were definitely the better team at Reading, a team that had comprehensively beaten us at St Andrews earlier this term so Blues are difficult to predict but it was only be hoped that the recent good form continued.
Sadly not as it turned out; apart from the last ten minutes of the first half and the beginning of the second Blues played pretty well overall. Birmingham started brightly and should have been ahead when Grounds exploited a ricochet in his favour to beat the Derby keeper only for his shot to come off the post to safety with only five minutes on the clock. I am certain that if that had gone in, Blues win this game. For most of the first half, Blues were the better side but Derby aren’t near the top for no reason. They defended resolutely and kept Blues out effectively and when they carved out a chance, they took it albeit fortuitously. Johnny Russell broke down the right flank and was allowed to burrow into the box far too easily. He turned inside and scuffed a shot which hit the heel of an unlucky Blues defender to divert into the net giving Stockdale no chance. The lead was wholly undeserved but that’s football isn’t it? When you are near the top of the table, those sort of things happen. When you are struggling like we are, they go against you. It’s galling but a fact of life at the moment; the original shot from Russell was going wide. Nineteen minutes gone and despite being the better side, we were behind.
At half time, based on the evidence that I had seen, I was confident that we would get something positive out of the game but unfortunately we didn’t start well in the second half and just at the point when we looked to be regaining control a speculative clearance by Tom Lawrence fell to Matej Vydra who ran on to the ball 40 yards out. He still had a lot to do maintained the two yards advantage over his nearest defender to crash the ball into the top corner. It was a cracking finish and game over. We were unlikely to score two against a team that had only conceded three in the last ten. Che Adams came on to make two up front in an attempt to change things but when the ball came back off the post, once again from Jonathan Grounds, this time from a header, for the second time from a corner you knew it wasn’t going to be our day. Derby brought on Weimann for Lawrence and within a minute he’d committed a horrible tackle on Maghoma that surely demanded an instant dismissal. Lee Probert weakly produced a yellow and it was ironic therefore that the ex-Viler should rub salt into the wounds with a tap in near the end from Nugent’s cross for a score line that didn’t reflect the contest. No way was this a 3-0 game!
The Good: The chicken tikka balti curry at the Cookhouse.
The Bad: The result obviously. It didn’t reflect the margin between the teams which was nowhere near as wide as 3-0.
The Ugly: Andreas Weimann’s tackle; red card by any standards!
Birmingham City: David Stockdale 6, Maxime Colin 6, Harlee Dean 6,Marc Roberts 5, Jonathan Grounds 7, David Davis 5 (Che Adams 66, 6) Jacques Maghoma 7 Craig Gardner 6, Jeremie Boga 6 (Jota 83, N/A)) Mikael Kieftenbeld 6, Sam Gallagher 6.
Subs not used: Conor Trueman, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Cheick N’Doye, Michael Morrison, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Yellow cards: Kieftenbeld 77.
Derby County: Scott Carson 6, Andre Wisdom 6, Richard Keogh6, Curtis Davies 7, Craig Forsyth 6, Tom Huddlestone 6, George Thorne 6, Johnny Russell 7, Matej Vydra 7, (Chris Martin 87, N/A) Tom Lawrence 6, (Andreas Weimann 78, 6) Sam Winnall 6 (David Nugent 69, 6)
Subs not used: Jamie Hanson, Alex Pearce, Chris Baird, Jonathan Mitchell.
Goals: Russell (an o.g. In my opinion) Vydra, Weimann.
Yellow cards: Davies 33, Russell 73, Weimann 78.
Referee: Lee Probert: 5; good first half, poor second. The decision I’m most incensed about is a mere yellow card for Weimann for a simply dreadful tackle on Maghoma; that was a red all afternoon and I don’t care that he had only just come on the pitch. It was galling that he should go on to net the third and then goad us about it when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch. This is a demonstration of what I’ve been telling my children all their lives and it is; ‘if you are waiting for life to be fair, you’ll wait an awful long time!’