Birmingham City 1-1 Newcastle United

Posted on March 18, 2008 
Filed Under Matches

Well, after all the pre-march anxiety, the game is finally over…

Here’s what Big Eck had to say. Here’s what Kevin Keegan had to say.

You can peruse a fairly sizable chunk of the web’s match reports by clicking on the links below:

Writing any sort of report about Blues-Newcastle today leaves me feeling as ill as I did last night. A different feeling but an ill feeling all the same. Before the game kicked off, I was saying to Old Man Aff that winning games such as this one really make the week fly and considering I have two weeks to do with as I please starting from this Thursday, I desperately, desperately wanted this week to fly…

The hours leading up to the game seemed to take forever but I could accept that if it turned the rest of the week into a giddy glide through deadlines at work and numpties (copyright, Tom Ross?) on the streets (why are 90% of bus drivers incapable of the most basic human kindness? If you saw someone JUST miss a bus in town today and accidentally yell some unkind swear words whilst listening to an Ipod completely forgetting where he was, you saw me) as I gleefully checked the table every couple of hours to see us sitting comfortably in 14th. It wasn’t to be.

I hate to use the clich√© but a game of two halves it certainly was. We should’ve been AT LEAST 2 up by half time and when we weren’t, I feared for us. I didn’t see after the break being quite so one-sided but I had a sneaking suspicion – that probably didn’t need a rocket scientist to work out – that we were going to concede a silly goal. And the goal was silly. Watch it and you will see Owen on his front foot eagerly waiting for a rebound whilst our two lads were back on their heels, not ready for the inevitable parry from a ‘keeper who seemed to find himself out of luck after one or two decent saves – the one at close range from Owen five minutes before the goal being particularly good.

A point is not the end of the world for us although I – like everyone else – do get the feeling that it’s a better point for those who travelled down from the north east yesterday. It moves us up a place and so long as we’re outside the bottom 3, that’s pretty much all I care about. I’d like us to have more points, I’d like us to be able to hang onto a lead, I’d like us to be able to beat teams from the bottom 8 teams at home and I’d really like it if every broadcaster and newspaper column in the world didn’t treat Newcastle as if they were some precious, special relic that was declining in size day by day and would one day disappear (sadly for some fans, see ‘Rotherham’ and ‘Gretna’ and one or two others, that’s a reality)… but that’s a whole other thing.

The back four seemed better yesterday. There seemed to be a determination to keep a clean sheet and rarely did we look like a silly mistake was going to let the Geordies in, save maybe Liam Ridgewell thinking that he was some sort of NBA star. Murphy is looking a class act and Kelly is Mr Consistency whilst Ridgewell seemed to be much better when he simply focused on defending and getting the ball clear.

The midfield dominated the first half and Muamba is going to be one hell of a player someday. He’s adding elements to his game regularly and his eagerness to shoot, no doubt spurred on by his wonder-volley at Pompey (ahem!), was a joy to watch. Big Eck just has to do with him as he needs to do with Zarate and make sure that a shot is taken when there isn’t a better and more obvious option available. Decision making is one of the most crucial aspects in being a creative player in the Premiership and judging by Muamba’s eagerness to attack, he certainly sees himself as having the potential to become a bit more cultured on the ball and being able to add that attacking edge to his game.

DJ, for the most part, was quiet and I wonder if we’ll see Nafti back in for Reading. I certainly wouldn’t mind that and perhaps DJ out wide right with Nafti in the middle will be the order of the day if Larsson’s injury is as bad as first feared (I’ll do another blog on that shortly.)

The attack? Well, what can you say about James McFadden? ¬£5m… when I first heard the figure, I almost cried but Big Eck has proven that he knows the player better than most and has motivated and deployed him in a way to make sure that we get our money’s worth. It’ll be a crying shame if we go down and he has to move on. The Forss didn’t get much service all night and was remarkably quiet. We had no ball retention at all in the final third in the second half and McFadden was cream-crackered so should’ve been taken off much earlier than he was.

Still, McLeish is still fairly new in the job and I daresay learning more about his charges as he goes. I thought Parnaby coming on at half time wasn’t a bad move at the time. I like and rate Parnaby but he struggled to make an impact and our out ball seemed to be a gigantic boot up the pitch in the second half although, in all fairness, neither side were full of lovely, silky, penetrating, attacking flair.

Overall, I’m disappointed, as I think everyone is. 2 points dropped and a real chance to put some daylight between us and the chasing pack. If I remember correctly, we’re now two points ahead of Bolton Wanderers with them travelling to have their game in hand at Old Trafford tomorrow night. They couldn’t beat 10 man Wigan Athletic away so the chance of nicking anything at Manchester United is slim but football… it’s a funny old game.

As McLeish said after the game, nothing was going to be settled on yesterday’s game but the impetus a win would’ve given us would’ve been massive. As it stands, we face another cup final on Saturday and it wouldn’t surprise me if nothing was clearer after that, either.

This year is going to see a record points low for a team staying up and I can see us getting to 35 points (ish) so it really will be edge of seats stuff for us and the teams around us from now until May. Despite Fulham’s impressive win on Sunday, I still can’t see them climbing out of it and I still believe that it’s just one place left on the trapdoor. Surely it can’t be us? Surely? Despite the negative results, there’s still a bit of a feel good factor around the place and I can’t for the life of me see us going down whilst that exists…

Like I said, disappointed – but still optimistic.


One Response to “Birmingham City 1-1 Newcastle United”

  1. Alfie Carter on March 19th, 2008 12:57 pm

    I watched the match on Setanta and during the first half it was very evident why Newcastle are being dragged into the relegation battle. They were there for the taking on Monday and I too was worried when we only went into half time one goal up. Having kept only three clean sheets this season, it was very likely, as you said that we would concede. With that in mind, I disagree with you Aff when you felt that Parnaby was the right choice of replacement for Seb. I can see the logic that says the defensive side of his game could help us achieve one of those elusive shut outs but I think that to try to defend a one goal lead from half time was the wrong attitude. One goal was highly unlikely to be enough and with all the Newcastle firepower on the pitch you would have to expect them to nick a goal, however badly the Magpies were playing.

    To my mind, everything that was good about us in the first half was coming down the right flank. Larsson, McFadden and the overlapping Kelly were the only attacking outlet we had. McSheffrey was anonimous yet again and I think I am one of the growing number of bluenoses who feel he is a Championship player out of his depth. For what ever reason, he just isn’t cutting it this season. Surely, in order to keep up the pressure we needed to maintain that threat and de Ridder, if indeed he was on the bench ( I can’t swear to it ) or Zarate seemed the better option to me. I think we paid the price in the second half for a lack of attacking options with three defensive midfielders and a missing left winger.

    I don’t particularly want to continue in a negative vein, especially as I agree that there is a feelgood factor, surprisingly, around the club which I too feel will help us to survive. That said, I do want to pick a few faults with the team. Without delving too deeply into the old DJ debate, I don’t think he contributed too much on Monday, save for a few reckless challenges. I would be happy to see Nafti replace him in the middle, regardless of Seb’s fitness. Neither do I want to slaughter Muamba as he is an emerging player and could have a great future. However, he certainly does need to add a lot to his game. He breaks the play up fantastically well and his surging breaks are encouraging but he looks uneasy on the ball and his inability to find a blue shirt with a pass is becoming increasingly frustrating. That is an accusation though which can be levelled at many of the team and at premier league level we simply cannot afford to surrender so much posession.

    My apoligies if the tone of this post seemed too negative, it was not my intention. I still think there is much to be encouraged by and I believe we should have enough to see us through the ” squeaky bum ” time !

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