The dawn broke to soft sunshine flooding in through the window. I’m not one for hanging about in bed in the mornings so I was up and dressed in pretty short order. My Welsh Terrier, Dilys seems to know that it’s Saturday morning even though I get up at the same time as in the week. She sat at my feet as I ate breakfast and lifting her paw as if there was a wristwatch there and gave me a look with gentle whimpers that said, “What time do you call this? It’s time for our walk!” It was a beautiful still day with a chill in the air, a left over from the overnight tinge of ground frost that had made the wet ground ever so slightly crunchy. It was a perfect day for a Welsh Terrier’s walk and despite the fact that she’s an old girl of nearly 14 now she set off with a sprightly step. We got back, and Mrs Bazza and I had a coffee and it was soon time to set off for the station. My youngest son, Ben was supposed to have come home for the weekend from University but it appears there was a date with a new girlfriend Friday evening and getting hold of him proved elusive. His mother was spitting feathers as she had cooked his favourite meal the night before and he had left no word of his plans despite our entreaties. I will leave it to you to decide what probably happened but the upshot was that Ben wasn’t going to be joining me for the away trip to Ipswich either. It’s amazing what young men will give up football for isn’t it? 😀
I got the 11.00 from Farnborough Main to Waterloo and took the Jubilee to Stratford for the connection to Ipswich. I’m bound to say that Ipswich is one of the most painless journeys from my part of the world considering it is a west-east route and I was in the conveniently situated pub, the Riverside Hotel right outside the Ipswich station at 13.20. I met Mark, an ex-army mate that I last met up with in Brugges in happier times. He was with a mate of his, Tony and we enjoyed a few bevvies before kick off. The ground is a five minute walk across the bridge so it’s really easy. Blues have continued to frustrate and confound us in equal measure being so much better away from St Andrews than at home where we can’t buy a win. I tend to enjoy away games more anyway to be honest but it begs the question where we would be in the league with even average home form? Given that I rate us as a pretty mediocre side, it speaks volumes for the rest of the division. Birmingham playing in their bright yellow away strip set up with Zigic, Macheda and Novak up front and it was good to see Spector back in the side. One thing that did puzzle me was the selection of Caddis on the right side of midfield rather than Burke who would have been my choice.
To say that this was a poor game of football is an understatement. No way did Ipswich deserve to win this match but they did with a goal that hit the goalscorer as it came across and since he wasn’t expecting it he looked sheepish as it crept inside the post on 39 minutes. Novak had an identical chance on 62 minutes and blazed it over the bar and that dear readers was the difference. If anything the goal came against the run of play and how many times does that happen in football? The rubbish that was dished up before and after the goal was equivalent to the bilge that is dirty washing up water. Blues did put some decent moves together particularly in the first half but a combination of slightly overhit passes and lack of pace from Novak failed to get the goal that Blues probably deserved and would undoubtedly have prevented what happened in the end. Other than that it was a dull boring dire encounter where had it been scoreless you would have said that both teams were lucky to get nil! Ipswich are a reflection of their manager; tough, physical, well organised, uncompromising with no frills. Mick McCarthy has taken a poor side and organised them and the fact that they are contenders for the play offs tells you everything about the excellent job he has done and also what a much of a muchness league the Championship is. I am certain the old gold and black from just up the road from us would not be in the position they are in now had they not sacked him.
In the first half hour Blues did look the better of the two sides but that description is relative. A neat one two between Novak and Zigic almost saw the big man through but his electric pace let him down! 🙂 Zigic whom I thought had a decent game winning most of the headers up to him and laying the ball off well with his feet did well to block a clearance by Tommy Smith and poked the ball through for Macheda who should have done a lot better than allow ex-Wolves defender Christophe Berra, he with the turning circle of an oil tanker, to get back at him and thus force the young striker to fire wide from a good position. Novak had another good chance to shoot from the edge of the area but chose the wrong foot to fire the drive in with and the chance passed harmlessly wide. Ipswich for their turn produced very little with a header from a free kick from deep that failed to trouble Randolph. It was stultifying fare to be honest and Blues were keeping Ipswich quiet without threatening too much themselves. It came as a bit of a shock therefore when Ipswich took the lead largely against the tempur of the game when Nouble managed to get to the by line out on the right. He squared the ball across and it should have been cut out given that it wasn’t that much of a quality ball. Somehow it made its way to the far post where Murphy was on hand to shin the ball in. It was a lead that the home side had neither earned or deserved but they went in at the break ahead.
The second half went downhill from there. Ipswich never looked capable of extending their margin and Blues looked toothless as frequent bouts of head tennis were played out. Randolph did have something to do on 56 minutes when he pushed a fierce shot from Taylor wide but that was about it. Blues did try and pep things up a bit with the introduction of Burke for Macheda who cut a frustrated figure all afternoon. Burke produced an identical chance to the one that Ipswich scored from when from the same spot he put a pacy ball across the six yard box; it fell to Novak who unlike Murphy was expecting it to arrive and having timed the run perfectly lifted the effort over. After that the game fizzled out and Ipswich saw out the game easily. Spector nearly gifted the home side a sealer when an aberrant back pass was seized upon towards the end but Randolph spared him the ignominy by saving from the goalscorer Murphy. The was no final hurrah in the five minutes added on and mercifully, referee, Mr Stroud blew his whistle for full time.
On the way home I met Roy on the train, a supporter who went to his first game in 1947. We reminisced about past teams and joys and sorrows if you will. He made the point about Lee Clark which I felt was a highly valid one which is that the manager has had to rebuild the Birmingham side FOUR times since his arrival at St Andrews and though life is a struggle at the moment, we are still in the division and holding our own despite the circumstances we all know about financially. On that basis you have to say that Lee Clark is doing a remarkable job which is the view I share with Roy. Let’s hope the agony will end soon with Mr Yeung’s verdict announcement next week and after this season ends that the club’s ship will enter calmer waters. There will be far better days than this fellow noses; chin up!
The Good: Meeting Mark and Tony in the pub, the straightforward journey and the sunshine walk with Dilys at the start of the day. The pleasure of Roy’s company on the way home. Perversely, that my son, Ben and my mates Will, Chris and Little Jack all missed this encounter!
The Bad: The fact that there were no pies left at half time and only those plastic processed hot dogs left; I went without and settled for a cup of tea. Novak’s miss; it was a shocker and cost us the draw we should have come away with.
The Ugly: The game; it was truly awful.
Ipswich Town: Dean Gerken 6, Aaron Cresswell 6 Luke Chambers 6, Christophe Berra 6, Tommy Smith 6, Cole Skuse 5, Daryl Murphy 6, Paul Green 6, Jay Tabb 6 (Stephen Hunt 68, 5) Paul Taylor 5 (Tyrone Mings 88, N/A) Frank Nouble 5 (Paul Anderson 52, 5).
Subs not used: Scott Loach, Anthony Wordsworth, Frazer Richardson, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
Goals: Murphy 39.
Birmingham City: Darren Randolph 6, Jonathan Spector 6, Aaron Martin 6, Paul Robinson 6, Lee Novak 5 (Brian Howard 79, 5) Federico Macheda 5 (Chris Burke 59, 6) Will Packwood 6, Paul Caddis 5 (Jordan Ibe 45, 6) Olly Lee 5, Emyr Huws 6, Nikola Zigic 6.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Andy Shinnie, Tom Adeyemi, Tyler Blackett.
Bookings: Spector, Zigic.
Referee: Keith Stroud 4; In keeping with the game, poor.
Attendance: 15,596 (512 bluenoses)
Bazza KRO SOTV