Here is Bazza’s take on yesterday.
I met up with Will in Guildford at 11 am with very little expectation for this game, so poor has our form been. Will was of the opinion that we would win, I wasn’t so confident having watched our defensive display against Coventry in midweek. As we were coming into Birmingham just after 1 pm, Lee Clark came on the radio and stated that a win was important and that there were various ways of achieving this; with free flowing football, a last minute winner from a keenly contested game or to win ugly. Well there it was then; an ugly 1-0 win it was to be. This was to prove prophetic. We parked up and it was obvious that the crowd was not going to be a large one; in the end it was just under 15,000. A couple of things cheered me up though; firstly Will pointed out that a new sign had been erected along the wall on the far side of the car park near the ticket office for our new sponsors. Looking at the picture you will see that whoever put it up couldn’t work out that two panels belong on the other end! The other smile was raised by a card advertising the Sportsman pub on Garrison Lane which speaks for itself. 😀
Will and I went to the Royal George resisting the temptation to visit the Sportsman, grabbed a couple of pints and watched the second half of the West Ham Fulham game which was already 3-0 in favour of the Hammers. We went into the ground at about ten to three and didn’t exactly have to queue, so sparse was the population that had turned up. The line up for Blues was at least a simple 4-4-2 with Lovenkrands and King up front, Burke and Elliott out wide with Spector moved to central midfield alongside Mullins who for some reason Lee Clark appears to wish to persevere with. There was a debut for Paul Caddis at right back with Murphy returning on the left. The injured Davies was replaced by Ibanez alongside Caldwell. Jack Butland continued between the sticks.
One of the things that has been lacking in our league games so far has been a lack of press and tempo. This appeared to have been rectified in the early stages and Hayden Mullins went close after only four minutes with a header narrowly wide from Marlon King’s cross. Blues were on the front foot when out of the blue a cracking shot from
Michael Bostwick on 16 minutes crashed off the underside of the crossbar with Butland beaten. The ball was cleared and the home support breathed a collective sigh of relief; perhaps this was the bit of good fortune needed as Blues went close again themselves when David Murphy fired a snap shot just wide from ten yards out. Very much like last season against these opponents the game settled down with no breakthrough and Peterborough began to come back into it and started to gain confidence. Pablo Ibanez made an excellent tackle to deny the visitors and was responsible for several timely headed clearances as the Tilton, Block 11 especially, tried to rally the team to keep up the pace.
Blues were awarded a free kick about thirty yards out and it was from this set piece that we were to take the lead in bizarre fashion on twenty-eight minutes. The in-swinging kick towards a crowded six yard box spelled danger for Posh. Bobby Olejnik, the Peterborough keeper attempted to punch the ball away under pressure from Lovenkrands, but the ball skidded off his fist or the forward’s head and bounced upwards and backwards over the defenders to bounce off the turf up into the roof of the net. The scoreboard accredited the goal to Lovenkrands who naturally claimed it but I suspect it was an own goal.
Blues recovered their composure now and really should have made it 2-0 from the spot. Ntlhe clearly barged Lovenkrands as he burst through on goal but referee Gavin Ward waved play on. This was a truly disgraceful decision; for the challenge to be legal, the shoulder has to engage the shoulder of the other player not the middle of his back! Moreover, the challenge has to be in playing distance of the ball; it was nowhere near as far as the defender was concerned. It is arguable that the chance was a goal scoring opportunity and by right Ntlhe would have to have gone off.
A cacophony of boos greeted the referee which was wholly justified. Mr Ward further incensed the home support by booking Lovenkrands for his understandable protest. It is just as well that Peterborough did not score from a chance they created within seconds on the break but the attempt ended up as a goal kick. Bostwick did test Butland from a free kick just before half-time. His rasping shot swerved wickedly to the teenager saved well at the second attempt. Four minutes of stoppage time were required for an earlier hold up for a clash of heads during which Caddis went on a mazy run before hitting a fierce cross into the box. Lovenkrands, just ten yards out, should have done better than lift his shot over the bar.
Lee Frecklington came on for the concussed Zakuani and Butland had to save a good shot from the substitute from 20 yards. The game was more open in the second period and Blues threatened at the other end with a header from Lovenkrands and a shot from Caddis that only just missed the top corner after another exciting run. Blues started to drop off and allow the visitors time and space on the ball and the nervousness in the crowd was becoming tangible. Predictably, on the hour Blues made a substitution with Nathan Redmond replacing Wade Elliott. Mullins had contributed nothing in my view and should have been withdrawn. He was neither fish nor fowl in this game; he didn’t break up play and the only accurate passes that I remember from him were all square and there weren’t many of those. Posh made another change of their own with Craig Alcock replacing Kgosi Ntlhe. Blues continued to live dangerously and they have Butland to thank for a superb, last ditch save from Danny Swanson with the Posh player clean through. I said at the start of the season that I felt that Butland would save Blues 10-15 points over the campaign; this save represents two of them.
Gomis came on in place of Lovenkrands on 71 minutes and this steadied the ship a little despite Posh continuing to look for an equaliser. Blues did have chances to score themselves and put the game out of their reach but Posh had their own keeper to thank in stopping a powerful shot from King. Redmond then blasted the ball wide from the rebound when well placed. Burke almost caught Olejnik out with a curling shot to the far post and King was narrowly wide with another effort in the dying embers of the game. Nevertheless, all the hard work was almost undone in the last few seconds of time added on when a shot from an acute angle by Tyrone Barnett was only inches wide of the far post.
A win, any kind of win was what was required; Blues are still looking dysfunctional but it was a lot better overall as a performance. The stand out player for me was Paul Caddis who was excellent both defensively and going forward. Jonathan Spector was not far away from man of the match and gave the midfield stability. He had to work very hard to make up for the deficiencies of Mullins who contributed so little that we may as well have played with ten men. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the player isn’t trying it is just that he is ineffective and had a poor game. The defence looked more secure but this has to be taken in context; Peterborough offer very little but still managed to give us the jitters at times. Burke was able to get into the game a lot more with a reliable full back behind him and I thought Murphy and Elliott did well down the other flank. King’s hold up play and movement were much better than in recent games and he kept his discipline despite being continually manhandled. He was given no protection whatsoever from the officials who were collectively dire.
The Good: Paul Caddis; excellent debut.
The Bad: The Referee and his Assistants.
The Ugly: The win; Lee Clark was right!
Birmingham City: Jack Butland 7, Paul Caddis 8, Steven Caldwell 6, Pablo Ibanez 7, David Murphy 7, Chris Burke 7, Hayden Mullins 3, Jonathan Spector 7 Wade Elliott 7 (Nathan Redmond 62, 6) Peter Lovenkrands 7 (Morgaro Gomis 71, 6) Marlon King 7.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Will Packwood, Mitch Hancox, Ravel Morrison, Akwasi Asante.
Bookings: Lovenkrands (37), Caddis (41), Murphy (45+3).
Goals: Olejnik og (28).
Peterborough United: Bobby Olejnik 7, Shaun Brisley 6, Gabriel Zakuani 6(Lee Frecklington h/t 7) , Michael Bostwick 6, Danny Swanson 6 (Emile Sinclair, 79, 6), Lee Tomlin 6, Tyrone Barnett 6, George Boyd 7, Grant McCann 6, Mark Little 6, Kgosi Nthle 6 (Craig Alcock, 63, 6).
Subs not used: Joe Day, Joe Newell, Nat Knight-Percival, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Referee: Gavin Ward 4: Inconsistent and bottled the key decision in the first half. The foul on Lovenkrands was assault! Failed to give the penalty and the red card to go with it. He had two assistants with him who only flagged for throw ins once the referee had decided which way the award should go. Seen better officials down the park.
Attendance: 14, 926 (629 away fans)