Here is Bazza’s take on Saturday’s game
Well the weather turned out nice again didn’t it? Well no but at least every other team in the country was in the same boat. I travelled to the game with my mate Will and he told me when I got in the car for the journey north that he was going to pick up his brother who owned a pub motel near Coventry Airport and from there pick up his Uncle Frank in Balsall Heath on the way through. Both turned out to be real characters and excellent company. The banter that ensued helped to lift the spirits for what was going to turn out to be a wet, windy and thoroughly miserable afternoon weather wise that is. Will’s brother, Chris and Chris’ wife, Gail made me very welcome when we arrived at their pub, The Oak in Kenilworth and I can thoroughly recommend the beer and the food. Apparently the pies are all home made and the best for miles around and I intend to try one next time I’m there. If the home made burger that I was served with for lunch is anything to go by it is something to be relished and I am grateful for the hospitality shown. A big thank you to Chris and Gail for the meal and drink and I can assure everyone that the fare was so much better than the repast I usually get at St Andrews although I am told on the grapevine that the new Queudrue Blue Curry is a bit of a hit.
It was lashing it down come kick off and the pitch was fast and slick with a stiff wind blowing across the pitch fortunately in the opposite direction away from the Kop where I was sitting. Blues started brightly and looked to out to entertain the assembled crowd of just under 24,000 but it was the visitors who threatened first. Bobby Zamora ran onto a pass forty yards out and charged towards the Tilton down our unoccupied left back berth going past the wrong footed Scott Dann. The move reminded me of the last time we played Fulham and Simon Davies scored from an almost identical run. He powered into the box and smashed the ball right footed into the far corner past the hapless Maik Taylor with nobody near him. On this occasion, if Zamora had done the same, he would surely have scored but he checked back onto his favoured left foot and tried to curl the ball into the far corner past Joe Hart. The attempt ended up embarrassingly wide crossing the by-line mid-way between the far post and the corner flag. There was only six or so minutes gone and this was a huge let off. Going behind on such a dreadful day would have made for a very difficult afternoon. As it was it was Blues who opened the scoring with a sublime finish by Lee Bowyer who lobbed the lofty Mark Schwartzer with a deft touch from James McFadden’s exquisite pass on 16 minutes. A truly wonderful goal and the sort of early lead we have all been craving. The trouble is that was it as far as this match was concerned as a spectacle; Fulham passed the ball around really well and we seemed to have no control in midfield for long periods. On balance I felt they had the better of things in the first half, a perception that was reinforced in the second period when we just ran round trying to get the ball and started to defend too deep. Zamora and Dempsey were a handful and showed good speed and movement and the Blues’ back line needed to be alert to prevent them breaching our defences.
Fortunately, Fulham for all their control and neat passing played in front of us and whenever we got it we kept trying to play long towards the willing but ineffective Jerome and Chucho. Barry Fergusson was tightly shackled by the Fulham midfielders who did a good job on him; Seb Larsson was subdued and inconspicuous throughout the game. James McFadden tried to get some impetus into our play but got pushed onto the back foot with everyone else by the Londoner’s wave after wave of attacks leaving Lee Bowyer as our stand out midfielder who worked his socks off as usual. The back four worked well again and repelled everything that Fulham offered with Roger Johnson and Scott Dann excellent once gain ably assisted by Carr and Ridgewell in the full back positions. The only attempt that tested Hart was a header by Clint Dempsey that was destined for the top corner only to be saved by the keeper on 68 minutes. This was to prove a match winning save and despite arguably our poorest performance at home this season the boys held on for a 1 – 0 win.
Roy Hodgson was disappointed not to have taken anything from the game and he has a point although his team did not leave with one as they probably deserved. However, there is no value in playing neat, slick football if you fail to create chances or indeed take one of the two that you do fashion. Credit must go to Birmingham who two years ago would undoubtedly have dropped points in this sort of game; that as I see it is the main difference between now and then. We look more solid and a whole lot more resilient even when we are not at our best as on this occasion. Roger Johnson appeared to take a knock near the end which seemed to restrict his movement but declined to be substituted by Carsley near the end. Alex McCleish only made one substitution which was Keith Fahey for Chucho. I found this baffling; not the insertion of a midfielder for an attacker; the need to wrest some control in the middle of the park was self evident but surely this is when Carsley should have been coming on rather than Fahey who is more of a playmaker? As for Roger Johnson, if he needed to be replaced why not bring on Gregory Vignal, a natural left back and move Ridgewell who isn’t from there to the centre-half berth where he is comfortable? Will says to me frequently on our trips “I dow’nt understand ‘is tic tacs at times I dow’nt!” I have to say that on this occasion neither do I. Never mind this was a great win and makes up for some of the times when we have played well this season and got nothing. On to the next one; some lot that play in Gold and Black I believe.