It seemed an absolute age since I’d been to a game as I hadn’t been able to go to the Bolton match though I did watch some of it on the telly and as for Leeds well enough said. I would normally have gone to Derby but I thought if we were going to defend like that we weren’t likely to be competitive and for the first time in years I decided I couldn’t face it and found far more useful things to do.
I had promised to visit my elderly aunt and infirm spinster cousin in Four Oaks which meant an early start from my home in Blackwater. My Welsh Terrier, Dilys was most put out about it all as with a sad doleful look in her eyes and front paw raised as if to say ‘what about our walk Daddy?’ I was firmly admonished. ‘I’ll make it up to you tomorrow sweetie’ I said shaking my head regretfully but I didn’t have enough time to walk her and get the train to get everything done. Dilys slid her front paws flat onto the floor and rested her head resignedly on them, ears drooping, tail down as I closed the door behind me.
The journey went off well enough and I reached aunty’s place about 12.30 and stayed three quarters of an hour or so before heading back to New Street through enemy territory for the walk down through Digbeth to the ground. I arrive at matches more in hope than expectation nowadays given our inconsistency of performance. I was hoping and praying that the epic 4-4 draw with Stoke City in the week only to fall short on penalties with only ten men for the most part was not going to have drain the energy; emotional and physical out of the team. The next couple of hours would tell.
Well it did tell and not very well at that. This was another poor performance on a windswept day that spoiled any chance of coherent, joined up flowing football. These two teams are where they are because they are distinctly below average in the division but Charlton were I’m afraid the better of the sides on the day. The players tried hard and endeavoured to do the correct things but far too many passes went astray and too many touches were either too heavy or misdirected in a very poor first half lacking anything resembling entertainment. We now occupy one of the relegation places and there frankly is where we deserve to be and playing like this is where we will stay. Unless we can find some form at home especially, we are likely to go the same way as our Midland neighbours Wolves and Coventry.
Blues had the better of the possession in the first half and on a few occasions got themselves in decent field positions out on the flanks where Gray particularly looked lively and sharp. Unfortunately, the delivery into the box failed so often to beat the first defender or was overhit drifting off on the wind in the blustery conditions. Burke had a day to forget as he was well marshalled by Rhoys Wiggins who never allowed the winger to get behind him at the byline. Tom Adeyemi put a decent shift in and was the pick of the Blues players on the day but he wasn’t given a lot in the way of competition to be fair. There were simply too many of our lot off the boil. Zigic won the majority of the flick ons as we resorted to hoof it and hope but rugged and competent defending by the Charlton back line meant that they won the second ball nearly every time.
Novak toiled manfully but never looked threatening. Reilly worked hard in midfield and broke up play well but the team totally lacked creativity and I doubt that we would have scored had we been playing now! Robinson was his hardworking pugnacious self and linked up well with Gray I thought but despite their forays down the left they failed to produce when it mattered. Kyle Bartley looked solid all afternoon but Dan Burn is beginning to give me the heebie-jeebies. He keeps getting himself caught under the ball all the time and on at least three occasions he allowed the ball to bounce instead of dealing with it. His main difficulties are coming about because of poor positioning and he needs to sort it out and quick. However, the big defender did have the ball in the net on 16 minutes when Chris Burke chipped a ball to the near post which was flicked on by Novak. Burn buried the header but the strike was chalked off because of an alleged infringement by Novak on the keeper, Ben Hamer. I’m bound to say it looked pretty innocuous to me but referee, Mr Mathieson ruled otherwise; how different this game could have been had that effort been allowed to stand.
Otherwise, Charlton had the better of the chances despite their lack of possession in the first period and should have been ahead on at least two occasions. The most notable was when Callum Reilly made a goal saving tackle on Simon Church a mere 10 yards out when Blues were caught short handed at the back just after the half hour. The other of these was the result of a mistake by Burn not dissimilar to the one he committed against Bolton and he has profligate finishing from the visitors to thank for the fact that it was still 0-0 at half time although on the balance of the game as a whole, it was probably a correct score at that stage.
The second half was as poor as the first in terms of quality but the difference was that Charlton were the better of the two teams. They started better, increased their tempo, pressed Blues into mistakes when they did get it and took the game to the home side as they sensed we were rubbish too and they could easily take all three points back to London. This they duly did on 56 minutes and no one could argue that it had not been coming. A near post drive from Cameron Stewart that ordinarily would have been meat and drink to Randolph squirmed out of his grasp forcing him into a second save but the third attempt from a ricochet as Bartley and Church both went for the ball was gleefully slammed into the net by Dale Stephens as it fell fortuitously into his path eight yards out as the static Blues defence watched horrified. That as they say folks was that. Of course, the substitutions that should have been made 10 minutes earlier were now duly made on 62 minutes with Lovenkrands coming on for the tiring Gray and Shane Fergusson replaced the ineffective Novak.
Desperate measures now pertained with Randolph used as a catapult to thump the ball repeatedly towards Zigic and Burn in the hope that we might benefit from a knock down but to no avail. Adeyemi did come close midway through the half but his effort was cleared off the line by Morrison. Finally Lovenkrands fired over a nod back by Zigic in the final minute when well placed and Birmingham’s last chance of salvation was gone. Charlton remained resolute as the kitchen sink got chucked in aided and abetted by the officials’ total refusal to accept that a full blooded push in the back as Lovenkrands went to head the ball was a foul as was two hands and a pull back on Zigic’s shoulders; both in the box. However, Charlton could have had a clear penalty themselves so I suppose it evens itself out and make no mistake, Charlton deserved this win; they were the better side over the piece. I agree with a lady sitting near me who exclaimed “Come on Blues, they’re not very good!” True indeed though that statement was, they were better than us!
The Good: The fact that it is at least three week before we have to endure another home match.
The Bad: The match, the performance, the weather, the atmosphere, life, the Universe, everything!
The Ugly: The quality of the play from both sides; it was truly awful and lacked anything by way of entertainment or excitement.
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 6, Paul Caddis 6, Dan Burn 4, Kyle Bartley 6, Paul Robinson 6, Chris Burke 4, Callum Reilly 6, Tom Adeyemi 7, Lee Novak 5 (Shane Fergusson 62, 6) Demarai Gray 6 (Peter Lovenkrands 62, 6) Nikola Zigic 6.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Aiden Mullins, Olly Lee, Reece Brown, Andrew Shinnie.
Charlton Athletic Ben Hamer 6, Johnnie Jackson 6 (Cook 90, N/A) Michael Morrison 6, Dorian Dervite-Vaussoue 6, Dale Stephens 6, Simon Church 7, Bradley Pritchard 6, Rhoys Wiggins 8, Lawrie Wilson 7, Jordan Cousins 6, Cameron Stewart 6.
Subs not used: Ben Alnick, Andy Hughes, Cedric Evina, Marvin Sordell, Callum Harriott, Harry Lennon.
Referee: Scott Mathieson 5: The officials had a decent first half but totally lost the plot in the second. I’m getting heartily sick of clear fouls in the penalty area being ignored. Both sides had legitimate claims. Doesn’t change the fact that Charlton deserved to win the game though.
Bazza KRO SOTV