So far the season had not gone so well. Whilst I wasn’t wholly surprised it didn’t make it any less depressing. Will couldn’t come to football due to family commitments and Chris was too busy at the pub with a wedding breakfast party of 120 guests so reluctantly he had to cry off as well. I resolved to go on the train and it was a more productive journey than it would have been otherwise as I had to take some things with me up to my youngest son who is at University at Oxford. As fate would have it a change was necessary there on my journey so I was able to spend a few minutes with Ben on the station where we enjoyed a welcome bacon sandwich and hot coffee. It had been a very early start for me so this little repast was welcome. I reboarded the train and got off at New Street just after 11.15. The reason for getting up to the Midlands so early was that I had decided to pay my elderly aunt and spinster cousin a visit in Four Oaks and so I changed trains again getting to their place about noon. It is my aunt’s birthday on Tuesday (she’ll be 89!) and I had one or two gifts from home for her.
I got back on the train about an hour and a half later back to New Street for the walk down to St Andrews. A couple of pints in the Royal George and it was into the ground for kick off hoping for, rather than expecting, a win which seems to be the way of it nowadays. Of the games I have seen so far this season, Ipswich Town aside, Blues had played well and had come away with nothing; the games at Leicester and QPR especially. The acquisition of Jesse Lingard, the youngster from Manchester United to possibly fire up our non-existent strike force gave a straw to clutch at but my expectations are very modest this season and have been from the start; I pray that the dreaded R word isn’t a reality come May that’s all.
Well, it appears that for once my prayers and that of the few that decided to turn up were answered. The headlines are clearly all going to be about the new wonder kid, Lingard wearing the number 9 shirt following his acquisition from Manchester United. He scored in the 20th, 29th, 33rd and 51st minutes against a hapless Sheffield Wednesday side that failed to cope with the pace and movement of Blues who played some decent football interspersed between the goals. However, the Owls started brightly early on with Antonio testing Randolf who saved comfortably enough from twenty yards and Palmer had another chance but shot tamely wide when well placed. Nevertheless, Birmingham always looked dangerous when Chris Burke got on the ball out wide on the right and it was he that turned inside and unleashed a fierce left-footed drive across the keeper towards the far corner. Kirkland could only parry the ball as he attempted to push it wide but Lingard following up clipped the ball back into the net with his left foot for number one.
There was a swagger and poise about Blues that had been missing of late in our home matches as the relief of not being behind clearly showed. A simple pass from midfield from Elliott through the static Wednesday defence nine minutes later found the youngster again as he netted coolly past the helpless Kirkland’s left hand for number two. The third a mere four minutes later was fashioned by Lingard himself as he drove a right-footed drive past the diving keeper into the same corner from 20 yards. Wednesday had Kirkland to thank for a smart reflex save during a breathless first half once again from Lingard who drove a rebound from a Burke free kick into the ground. His shot whipped up off the turf and was arrowing into the top corner before Kirkland tipped over but only just otherwise the headlines this morning would have been even more remarkable.
The game was largely won by half time but a fourth goal fashioned again by Chris Burke who gave Reda Johnson a torrid time all afternoon put the icing on the cake. He stole the ball off the dithering full back and twisted him this way and that before wriggling past him. It is a credit to Burke that he stayed on his feet as the big defender tried to ankle tap the winger but Burke was too nimble and quick and delivered a lovely cut back from the by line to Lingard who scored a simple tap in but the sort of chance our other players have not been converting this term. This boy Lingard is a goalscorer alright
Blues could easily have had six or seven but took their foot off the pedal a little bit in the second period and allowed Wednesday a consolation on 66 minutes through Zayatte who glanced an easy header in from a free kick when any of three players could have scored. This was the only blot on a near perfect performance as Blues looked solid once again defensively.
This wasn’t just about the new young Wunderkind however the other players all deserve mention. Randolf didn’t have a lot to do but he came out and punched well when he had to against a big tall Wednesday attack force and one notable save from Jermain Johnson a quick, clever looking winger that the visitors brought on in the second half caught the eye. The youngster ran at our back line and opened his body before delivering an excellent curling right footed shot which I thought was in from where I was sitting until Randolf tipped it over for a corner. Wednesday had only just scored their consolation so 4-2 would have made life uncomfortable with still plenty of time left. Robinson and Burn were solid for the most part at the back and Barkley also contributed well and perhaps should have scored with a free header from a corner when he didn’t get enough on the ball and the chance skimmed off his forehead wide.
It was good to see David Murphy back in the line up and he gave a creditable performance first game back after a long injury lay off. We know what we can expect of him and he will undoubtedly improve as he achieves match fitness. Spector put in a decent shift and helped break up play and get Blues as a unit going the other way; another one who took his form from last Saturday into this game. Burke was excellent and wasn’t used enough in my view. Elliott played well but was guilty of giving the ball up cheaply at times but overall contributed well to the cause in midfield. Tom Adeyemi had another good game to add to the excellent showing at QPR last weekend. Matt Green worked tirelessly all afternoon and perhaps should have scored himself in the second half but a heavy touch gave Kirkland a chance to block when the forward was well placed.
I don’t have too many expectations for Tuesday against an excellent Swansea side but the important game next week is at Reading, just down the road from me. If we can play like we did in this game and at QPR we have a real chance of coming away with some reward; here’s hoping eh?
The Good: Great performance from the whole team although the debut showing from our new loanee was clearly outstanding.
The Bad: the goal we conceded. Sloppy defending as three unmarked Wednesday players queued up to score a header from a set piece.
The Ugly: The look on Chris Kirkland’s face as the goals went past him. Can’t say I blame him; his defenders were atrocious.
Birmingham City: Darren Randolf 7, Jonathan Spector 7, Kyle Barkley 7, Dan Burn 7, Paul Robinson 7, Chris Burke 8, David Murphy 7, Tom Adeyemi 8, Wade Elliott 6, Matt Green 7 (Shane Fergusson 84, N/A) Jesse Linguard 9 (Peter Lovenkrands 71, 6).
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Olly Lee, Andy Shinnie, Reece Brown, Paul Caddis.
Sheffield Wednesday: Chris Kirkland 6, Michail Antonio 6, Roger Johnson 5, Reda Johnson 5, Kamil Zayatte 6, Jacques Maghoma 5, (Jermaine Johnson 61, 7) David Prutton 5, Jeremy Helan 5, Jordan Spence 6 Liam Palmer 5 (Atdhe Nuhiu 30, 5).
Subs not used: Cameron Dawson, Jose Semedo, Giles Coke, Chris Maguire, Miguel Llera.
Referee: Keith Hill 6: A little fussy at times and I felt he could have used the advantage a little more often. Overall he was fair to both sides but whilst he rightly booked Adeyemi for nudging the ball away to prevent Wednesday taking a quick free kick, I don’t understand why he didn’t caution one of their players moments earlier for a similar infringement. Reda Johnson should have been booked in the first half for persistent fouls on Burke whom he failed to cope with but somehow escaped caution. The hero of the hour, Linguard was cautioned after his hat trick goal presumably for over zealous celebrating but he was very lucky not to pick up a second card just before half time when he carried on with a volley over the bar when the whistle had gone. It would have been a disastrous end to his debut and sensibly the referee gave him the benefit of the doubt but my heart was in my mouth for a moment.