Drat and double drat!
Here is Baz’s view from the armchair!
Originally, I had tickets to go and see this game live but it became clear last week that with work commitments for everyone concerned that things were likely to be tight in terms of time at best and most likely to be guaranteed to miss a chunk of the game. I got a refund therefore and resolved to watch the match with my sons, Will and Chris in one of our local pubs. Well everyone knows the one about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ and all that; in the end it all never seemed to happen and it was a case of watching the game on SKY at home with my lads.
At the time of writing I cannot put into words just how disappointed I am not so much with the defeat but the fact that once again we played mediocre rubbish for two thirds of the game and waited an hour before making a substitution that in my humble opinion could have been made after twenty minutes. Beausejour gave one of the worst performances by a Blues player for as long as I can remember and there have been some candidates for that dubious accolade as we all know. He looked woefully off the pace, got caught in possession repeatedly, was clueless when it came to tracking back and helping his full back and as for going forward; someone needs to tell him that for most of the time he was on the pitch he was facing the wrong way! When he got it he turned and passed it backwards; not once did he run at a defender or attempt to take anyone on. He is supposed to be an international winger!
Stoke were by far the better side for the first hour of the game without exactly outplaying us. They deservedly led at half time and it could have been more than the 1-0 score line although it has to be said that the goal resulted from a very unlucky deflection into the path of Huth who smashed the ball virtually at Foster but the shot had too much on it for the keeper to repel it. It wasn’t until Alex McLeish made the much needed substitution of Fahey for Beausejour that some control of midfield started to occur. The tempo increased and Blues started to assert themselves and were the better side for the rest of the match. Jerome got in behind the shaky Stoke defence but crossed weakly only for Etherington to clip the ball against his own post. A melee followed where shots rained in on the home team’s goal and the feeling that an equaliser must follow was snuffed out by a breakaway against the run of play on 71 minutes. Ricardo Fuller was allowed to run too far from the half way line and was not closed down. He beat two defenders as he turned inside too easily but the strike into the far corner was sublime and worthy of winning any game.
It seemed it was game over but within five minutes Blues were level with two excellent strikes of their own from Fahey, who having come on was one of the best players on the pitch at this juncture and Cameron Jerome with a well directed header from Larsson’s superb cross. Fahey’s volley, having controlled the ball on his chest on the edge of the area, was a lovely goal and as graceful as Fuller’s had been. So 2-2 and all to play for and it was Blues who were looking the most likely to win it with about 15 minutes left. Several chances came and went for Blues including a point blank header from Johnson that was unfortunately straight at Begovic allowing the keeper to push the attempt over the bar when it really should have been 3-2. Then calamity struck; this is Birmingham City after all and we above all know how to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory! With only five minutes on the clock, a now rare attack by Stoke resulted in a weak cross from Etherington on their left wing. Somehow Barry Ferguson managed to toe the ball and deflect it between the legs of Scott Dann to the only Stoke player in our box surrounded by four defenders and the keeper. That player was Whitehead who pounced and the ball bobbled into the net for the winner.
I am feeling very low just at this moment like I suspect most Blues fans who watched this game at the stadium or on the telly. In the final half an hour Birmingham had enough chances to have won three games let alone this one. Stoke were very fortunate with two of their goals to get lucky deflections but over the piece they deserved their victory because we played rubbish for the first two thirds of this game just as we did against West ham on Saturday. We simply cannot afford to keep doing this. If we continue to miss gilt edged chances when they occur and then defend as badly as we did for their winner we will get relegated. We have Manchester City away next followed by Chelsea at home and the way we are playing, I fear the worst. There are worse teams than us in the Premier League I believe but none of them as far as I can see are only turning up for thirty minutes in any given match. Poor though we were for the majority of this game; this was a match we could and should have won even if we would not necessarily have deserved it – I’m gutted.
Finally, I feel it was disgraceful for Jamie Rednapp to suggest before the game that if a close penalty call should occur for Stoke that it will probably be given. Mr Clattenburg deserves a word of praise tonight as it appeared to me that he was uninfluenced by the bleating of Tony Pulis about decisions that have gone against his team so far this season however justified he may be. I commented about this in a previous post but despite that fact that Blues have arguably had just as many abysmal decisions given against them over the season so far, there have been no complaints from our manager who has accepted every setback with dignity and equanimity. I thought Mr Clattenburg refereed the game extremely well and did not appear to give way to pressure or home crowd bullying.
The Good: Superb goals from Ricardo Fuller and Keith Fahey; an excellent fight back from Blues in an entertaining last half hour.
The Bad: The dross we produced for the first hour and in particular Beausejour’s performance which was epic in its awfulness; should have been given the hook much much earlier.
The Ugly: The winning goal! Dreadful defending even if the tiny deflection that led to it was unlucky.
Stoke City (4-4-2) Goals: Huth 44, Fuller 71, Whitehead 85
Begovic 7 Huth 8 Faye 6 Higginbotham 6 Collins 6 Pennant 7 (Whelan 73, 6) Whitehead 7 Etherington 8 (Wilson 90 N/A) Jones 7 Fuller 9 (Walters 90+4, N/A)
Birmingham City (4-4-2) Goals: Fahey 73, Jerome 76
Foster 6 Carr 7 Johnson 6 Dann 6 Ridgewell 7 Larsson 6 Gardner 8 Fergusson 8 Beausejour 3 (Fahey 61, 7) Zigic 5 Jerome 6