My mate Will was unable to make this game due to family commitments and his brother Chris is in France on holiday so both had a lucky escape. Will had asked in the week whether I could pick up Little Jack from the pub in Baginton and so it was that I drove up from Surrey on a bright Saturday morning before completing the journey to St Andrews along the A45 with my young companion.
All week I’ve seen a load of comments extolling the virtues of 4-4-2 as far as Blues are concerned. Everyone has their theories about the 3-5-2 system Lee Clark has been employing and how it doesn’t allow Chris Burke to start and how we don’t score enough goals and I have to confess, I commented that the side can look unbalanced with Eardley not being a natural wing back. Well, we got our wish; Blues set up 4-4-2 and the line up included Lovenkrands of all people up front with Novak with Burke, Shinnie, Adeyemi and Spector making up the midfield quartet. Robinson reverted to left back, Burn and Bartley played in the middle with Eardley on the right. Darren Randolph returned between the sticks from his recent travails at Leicester when he broke his nose and injured a hand diving bravely at the feet of David Nugent.
So much for the line up and 4-4-2 but for the record, it didn’t work. This performance was easily the worst I’ve see from Blues this season as we were largely outplayed by a functional Ipswich team for most of the game. We have Darren Randolph to thank for not being on the end of a right good old pasting. It matters not what system you play when you don’t perform the basic functions that a football team should i.e. pass the ball to a player of your side who should competently control it before passing it on to another player from your team. This basic Ipswich did and we didn’t hence they as the away team had 58% of the possession to our 42% and had eight attempts on target to our three. Our game plan seemed to be hoof it down the channels, hold it up, give it to Burke and try and get behind them. Burke never got into the game until late in the second half, Lovenkrands was totally ineffective and a shadow of the player he was at Newcastle and Rangers, the rugged Ipswich defence were more than equal to such an unimaginative plan and at least when they employed it themselves they got it in the box and if you keep crossing it in sooner or later something will break your way if only by the law of averages. Ex-Wolves man Christophe Berra headed Town in front on 29 minutes from a cross from Cresswell. He outmuscled Bartley to finish powerfully and Ipswich were deservedly ahead and I thought it was going to be exactly the same as last season.
Ipswich looked dangerous every time they came forward and could have scored more. The impressive Cresswell kept tormenting Blues with crosses that with better headed finishes from McGoldrick could have been added to their score. McGoldrick was denied by Randolph who pushed a searing drive onto the post and another shot from the same player was saved with his legs. Add to that another fine save from Luke Hyam low down by his right had post and the number of headers that Ipswich were winning from corners (they had almost twice as many as us!) and 4-0 to Ipswich would not have been an unfair score line at half time. The sum total of Birmingham’s pathetic contribution to proceedings was a cross from Burke who managed to get to the byline and deliver a cross which Lovenkrands could only loop over the bar. Shinnie did have one effort when he lobbed an effort over Dean Gerken’s head but the danger was easily snuffed out by his covering defenders.
Shane Ferguson and Matt Green came on in the second half for Shinnie and the ineffective Lovenkrands and things improved a little from the home perspective but they were still second best. It should have been 0-2 at the three-quarter mark of the game when McGoldrick raced through on goal and shot wide. Randolph continued to keep Blues in the game and added another three fine saves including one from Ipswich’s man of the match Cresswell. Blues didn’t look likely to score and like many in the crowd I was resigned to another home defeat with not a single home goal so far this season when salvation came in the form of Burke. It was a lucky goal but who cares? It came during Birmingham’s only sustained spell of pressure in the game probably aided and abetted by the natural tendency of teams to sit deeper at the end of the game approaches. This saw Ipswich camped in their box looking to see the game out when the ball fell to Burke. He twisted this way and that and was given just the room he need to turn onto his left foot and curl his shot towards Gerken’s top right had corner. The effort took a fortunate deflection and looped up over the keeper, eluding the covering defenders into the net.
A goal at last and the effort lifted Blues who then nearly snatched an undeserved victory a couple of minutes later when substitute Scott Allan shot but narrowly wide with Gerken beaten. All was so very nearly lost when Ipswich finishing as they had been for most of the game, on the front foot, so nearly got the winner themselves. Bartley fouled McGoldrick right on the edge of the area and I thought we were very fortunate that referee, Darren Drysdale chose to give a free kick rather than a penalty. It was very close from where I was sitting and perhaps too close to make a direct attempt on goal easy. The wall did its job and Blues had a point; something for which we can all be grateful on what proved not to be Birmingham City’s finest hour (and a half!)
The Good: The fact that we got anything at all out of this game.
The Bad: Just about everything about this performance apart from Darren Randolph’s contribution.
The Ugly: Our prospects going forward; without any disrespect to Ipswich Town who were by far the better team, I do not see them as one of the stronger sides in this division. They are still in a transition phase from last year under Mick McCarthy and at the moment aren’t great shakes but they didn’t have to be against us. If we are going to perform like this we are in serious trouble because we wont win enough games, score enough goals or be able to rely upon our man of the match keeper every time to scrabble a point.
Birmingham City: Randolph 9, Eardley 6 (Allan 34, 6) Bartley 5, Burn 6, Robinson 6, Burke 6, Adeyemi 5, Spector 5, Shinnie 5 (Ferguson 58, 6) Lovenkrands 4 (Green 65, 6) Novak 5.
Goal: Burke 75 minutes
Ipswich Town: Gerken 7, Cresswell 9, Chambers 7, Smith 7, Berra 8, Skuse 8, Anderson 7 (Edwards 63, 6) Tunnicliffe 8 (Tabb 80, N/A) Hyam 7, McGoldrick 8, Nouble 6 (Murphy 67, 6)
Goal: Berra 29 minutes
Referee: Darren Drysdale 6: Bit of a mixed bag from the officials. The referee wasn’t communicating well with his Assistant on the Kop side in the first half, The Assistant flagged for offside at least three times and the referee failed to notice in due time allowing play to run on for a few seconds. Overall though I felt the officials were fair to both teams and I liked the way that Mr Drysdale stood no nonsense from players trying to buy free kicks by going over too easily. He waved away several such incidents early on and hey presto, it stopped happening! I heard the usual moans and groans about the officials on the way out of the ground from one or two people but sorry, the result had nothing to do with them and everything to do with Blues’ performance which was poor. We should put our own house in order before blaming others. If anything, I thought the referee was lenient to us in the last minute; some would have given a penalty!