Here is Bazza’s take on yesterday’s “performance!”
Will had told me some time back that he was going to be unable to go to this game because his wife is expecting their second child on the day. I did ask him what his point was and got the look that suggested that even following the Blues could not compensate for the emasculating he was likely to endure if he even thought about it; what it is to be hen-pecked eh? 😀
Chris, Will’s brother was going to the game and I therefore travelled up alone to The Oak pub in Baginton where Chris is the guv’nor. The journey was uneventful for the most part although there was a nasty accident on the opposite carriageway on the M40 on the way up which of course everybody including me had to have a good gawk at and so make sure that the delay affected both directions on the motorway.
Having arrived at about 1 pm and fortified by a refreshing pint we set off for the Hawthorns, a venue which I have to say I have not visited since 1972 or thereabouts and apart from the score which was 2-2 that night I recall that Blues played in the much maligned red, yellow and black tricolour strip which has never been repeated to my knowledge.
We parked up and walked the short distance to the ground grabbing a hot roast sandwich on the way. These seem to be becoming more widespread and I for one would welcome one or two sellers of hog roasts outside St Andrews. I reckon they would do a roaring trade rather than the horrible burgers and rubbish sausages that form the only choice at our home matches.
The away fans were in excellent voice and in high numbers despite the £40.00 entry price which for any side in the Premier League is pretty steep let alone the Baggies. Chris and I did have an excellent view of the game however, finding ourselves high up at the back of the stand behind the goal after a couple of pints in the bar.
Blues started brightly with the only change from our last game being the inclusion of Hleb for the injured McFadden. Will had called up early doors in the morning and predicted that Bowyer would play out left wing. I suggested he had taken leave of his senses but he was absolutely right! Needless to say despite Bowyer’s best efforts he tended to drift inside particularly later in the game and as time wore on we became unbalanced. Peter Odemwingie looks an excellent acquisition for Albion and he should have put the Baggies ahead when presented with a chance about fifteen yards out with the whole goal to shoot at. Fortunately for us he shot tamely at Foster and the danger passed. Apart from this moment, our hosts didn’t create a great deal in the first half but did threaten on a couple of occasions with deep crosses to the far post where we looked vulnerable. Overall though Blues defended well enough and bossed the first half with the extra man in central midfield. Hleb showed touches demonstrating his obvious class and Ferguson was as calm and controlled as ever aided by the hard working Gardner. Seb Larsson on the right completed the midfield quintet.
A free kick on 15 minutes just after Albion’s chance was chipped down the channel to Ridgewell on the left edge of the penalty area. He headed it across to Jerome who in splendid isolation three yards out tapped in for the lead as easy as you like. Where West Brom’s defence was only they know but Blues were to be in total control of the game from then on apart from a ten minute spell in the middle of the half when we allowed our opponents back into the game by taking the proverbial hoof off the pedal. Nevertheless, it was a decent performance to half-time but you have to say that in retrospect Albion were there for the taking and we are guilty of not being ruthless enough. Roberto Di Matteo and some Baggies’ fans felt that WBA had played well in the first half; easily pleased is what I’d say since for the large part they were outplayed.
I was confident that we would tuck in, defend in numbers possibly snatch another and see the game out because up until now the only threat that Albion seemed to offer were far post balls from set pieces. Little did we know just how badly Blues were going to play in the second period? It was expected that Albion had to get better on their first half showing and they brought on Dorrens for the ineffective Fortune and matched up with us in midfield. These two changes made a huge difference and Albion started to play with a higher tempo and control. This onslaught was to be expected and I thought we would weather it and move on then a ball to Jerome Thomas down their left found Carr on the wrong side and the attacker held him off and placed a dangerous cross shot into the six yard box. With Odemwingie threatening, Scott Dann could only divert the ball into the net for 1-1. As so often is the case, this lifted the home side and their supporters who had until that point done a reasonable impression of one of Pope Benedict’s prayer vigils.
Nevertheless, there was no need to panic; regroup, reorganise, dig in and regain control. I was surprised that there seemed to be little if any movement on our bench. The ball was not sticking up front as Jerome tired, passes were going astray even from Hleb, we weren’t pressing the ball so allowing the rejuvenated Baggies far too much time and space to weave pretty patterns around us. When we got it we didn’t keep it and Bowyer was getting drawn out of position more and more and we lost shape. The game was getting away from us and changes still didn’t come. Bowyer attempted to cut out an innocuous ball across the edge of the area. Facing goal his touch was as bad as Cameron Jerome on a good day and he succeeded in propelling it back towards goal where a disinterested Odemwingie standing in what would have been an offside position had his team mates delivered the ‘pass’ lurked. He pounced quickly rounded Foster and found the net from an acute angle; a very neat finish. The Yam Yams started singing now they were winning.
Blues completely unravelled and conceded a third goal from a corner when Jonas Olsson headed in getting well above Ridgewell; yes he was pushed, yes it was a foul and yes the referee should have seen it and disallowed the goal but Ridgewell was not robust or strong enough and regardless should make life far more difficult for the attacker. The towel had very firmly been thrown in at this stage and Blues were a beaten side with twenty minutes left. There was none of the usual never say die attitude to be seen because I am sure had Blues scored another the mettle of the Baggies may well have been tested. Bowyer kicked out with a high tackle in frustration following a meaty challenge on him just before that had gone unpunished. He was lucky to only see yellow and was rightly substituted with Zigic coming on to add a bit more threat. Hleb was replaced by Derbyshire and Beausejour came on with very little time left for Jerome. The changes were half an hour too late in my opinion.
Albion deserved their victory without doubt. They were by far the better side in the second half not only because of their improved efforts of the first half but the abject failure of Blues in the second period. Baggies fans must be rightly very pleased with their team’s showing this morning but a word of caution is in order here. The performance although good is a mirage given how poor the Birmingham team was in the second half. They went from being in control of a game they were more than capable of winning to looking like a pub team. This was as poor a display as I can remember for months especially from the defending. The three goals were all gifts consequent of uncharacteristic defensive mistakes that Blues’ fans have not been used to for a while now. On the day he signed a new three year contract, Alex McLeish has to share some of the blame for the way Blues came apart in the second half. We could see that changes were needed before Albion scored but he left it far too late. I also cannot see the logic of playing Bowyer in a wide left berth. Will must understand him better than I do because that is exactly what he said would happen.
If you are going to play five across the middle why not put our new Chilean winger in there?
I sent a series of texts to Will throughout the game as follows:
Goal! Blues 1-0 Jerome 14 min. Goal! 1-1 terrible defending Carr wrong side of attacker.
Goal! 2-1 Bloody back pass! DFK DFC who scored!
Goal 3-1 Can’t even defend corners properly now! 20 minutes left and it could be six at this rate!
Result: 3-1 and we’re s**t!
This was a thoroughly bad day at the office. We have Wigan next week and we cannot afford to defend like that against them or indeed MK Dons in the week. Blues need to get this one out of the system rapidly and get back to doing what they have been doing well for the last 12 months. The lack of fight when we went behind also disappointed me and we looked as if we capitulated once it went 3-1; that is simply not acceptable and McLeish has to get on their case about that this week.
The Good: First half performance. Some of the touches from Hleb were sublime but he needs time to settle. Passes started to get wayward as he tired in the second half. Well worked goal from Jerome.
The Bad: Our defending second half. Not quite as bad as England’s against Germany in the summer but rates right down there. Carr was shocking and Thomas gave him the run around. He was rightly named man of the match but it wasn’t exactly difficult for him; late changes by McLeish far too late to have any effect.
The Ugly: Bowyer’s challenge on Jara just before he was substituted but Jara wasn’t blameless. Some of the scenes outside the ground after the game from a few idiots.
Foster 6; Carr 3, Johnson 6, Dann 6, Ridgewell 4; Larsson 5, Ferguson 6, Hleb 7 Gardner 6, (Beausejour 83 N/A); Bowyer 4, (Zigic 68, 5) Jerome 6 (Derbyshire 80 N/A)
Carson 6; Jara 6, Tamas 7, Olsson 7, Shorey 5; Brunt 7 Mulumbu (Reid 75 6); Scharner 7, Thomas 9 (Barnes 87, N/A), Odemwingie 8, Fortune 5 (Dorrans 46, 8)