It felt good to be actually on the way to St Andrews for a game. In recent times Blues had been selected for the telly at odd times that because of work and family commitments, I had no chance of getting to in any case. The Friday night Swansea match saw Blues totally outplay the visitors. Jonny and I watched the game in a local pub and neutrals watching couldn’t understand how we contrived not to win at a canter. Even worse was the Forest game where I cannot remember a home side being so dominated, finding themselves 0-2 down and yet managing a point because of a worldy and sloppy defending at the death. However, the worst of all, was the Bolton game which I watched on the ‘red button’ on cable. Mugged and daylight robbery do not even begin to tell that story but the theme running through all three games was failure to convert gilt-edged chances. By my reckoning that seven points in three games that have gone begging; it’s going to be a long winter if we carry on like that. The positive spin on this is that we look so much better than last season when the main difference was we were playing rubbish football twelve months ago. The performances so far have been excellent so by the law of averages results will come.
My youngest son Ben was meant to be joining me on the trip and Will, little Will and I arranged to pick him up at Birmingham International. That was of course until my gormless son remembered that he had an important business meeting in the afternoon at exactly 08.37 Saturday morning leaving me with a spare adult ticket to offload at zero notice. Will said he would make a couple of calls and see what he could do. I walked down to a local Tesco to get little Will a sausage roll and waited to be picked up. Like most nearly eight year olds, he is always hungry and favours rubbish food but in fairness he had been football training and had burned off some energy.
Will arrived and we cut across onto the M4 to find that the A404 was closed so we had to come off later via the A355 to join the M40 at Beaconsfield which cost more time than we would have liked but after a sticky half an hour or so we made good progress past Oxford and made our ground by about 2.30 pm. Fortunately, I was able to offload Ben’s ticket to a fan who had walked up and was waiting in the queue. We went straight in through the turnstiles and headed for the catering bar. Looking at the food, it looked as if the Cookhouse was serving veggie tikka masala. Veggie tikka masala!!!!!! What’s gooin’ on? What’s gooin’ on indeed! So there was nothing for it; a pie and a pint it was; I’m a carnivore! Needless to say the service was grindingly slow as usual. I didn’t notice the new FastPay system in evidence presumably because like me, most people haven’t been able to load the card on line. I’ll try again this week.
Steak and kidney pie and pint of bitter despatched and it was up to the seats. We had a glorious day, a beautiful looking playing surface, a decent crowd and two teams coming out to Mr Blue Sky. However, that is about as good as it got; this game was one of the worst I’ve seen at St Andrews for a long, long time. QPR, sporting reddish pink shirts and black shorts set their stall out early packing their box whenever Blues showed any inclination to attack. I lost count of the number of times their back four passed square across the pitch and their keeper stood with ball at his feet waving his arms about with little intention of actually playing the ball until he had to. Blues for their part did not contribute a great deal to the spectacle. Instead of playing the sort of crisp exciting football we witnessed against Swansea and the Tricky Trees, they proceeded to play into QPR’s hands by engaging in endless bouts of head tennis and hoofing the ball long to Jutkiewicz and Che Adams both of whom were manhandled all through the game with no sanction by the referee. I’m amazed we didn’t all have neck ache at half time so often was the ball at the level of the stand roof.
There is absolutely nothing positive to say about the first half; it was scrappy, littered with petty fouls and free kicks, devoid of anything resembling entertainment, aided and abetted by a truly appalling refereeing performance. The second half was no better and neither side deserved to win although QPR did attempt a smash and grab at the end with the final set piece of the match, a corner which should really have been a goal kick. Fortunately, despite a scramble off the line and a great save by Camp the referee halted play for a foul so even if the attempt had registered it would have been chalked off. Both sides were lucky to get nil and the only saving grace is that we don’t have to play QPR every week.
The Good: Listening to Test Match Special; hearing how Michael Vaughan dealt with ‘tossing under pressure’ in front of thousands of people and if you are served a bad Cumberland sausage, the sausage police will be called!
The Bad: The game (a real turkey) and the referee (worst I’ve seen in years!)
The Ugly: QPR’s away strip! Urgghhhhhh!
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 7, Maxime Colin 6 (Wes Harding 59, 6) Michael Morrison 7, Harlee Dean 7, Kristian Pedersen 7, Mikael Kieftenbeld 8, Gary Gardner 6, Jota 7, Jacques Maghoma 5, Lukas Jutkiewicz 6 (Omar Bogle 86, N/A) Che Adams 6 (Viv Soloman-Otabor 68, 6)
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Craig Gardner, Marc Roberts, Connor Mahoney.
Yellow cards: Maghoma 31, Pedersen 53.
Queens Park Rangers: Joe Lumley 6, Jake Bidwell 7, Joel Lynch 7, Toni Leistner 7, Angel Rangel 7, Luke Freeman 7, Massimo Luongo 7, Jordan Cousins 7, Eberechi Eze 8, Tomer Hemed 6 (Geoff Cameron 89, N/A) Nahki Wells 6 (Matt Smith 85, N/A)
Subs not used: Matt Ingram, Paul Smyth, Alex Baptiste, Pawel Wszolek, Bright Osayi-Samuel
Yellow cards: None! (Probably the most amazing statistic of all)
Referee: Jeremy Simpson: 2; This is possibly the lowest score that I’ve ever given an official in all the years I’ve been reporting for Joys and Sorrows. Fans sitting around near me asked what score I was going to give and my fellow intrepid traveller, Roy who like me has witnessed some pretty awful games, thought I was being generous. I accept the game was scrappy and interrupted by far too many free kicks but matches get that way when referees allow physical players to get away with manhandling that crosses the line of legality. This leads to frustration and retaliatory offences in return thus leading to a disjointed, scrappy, tedious and thoroughly unentertaining watch. The players and spectators get irritated and what should be an enjoyable occasion becomes anything but. Firm handling of defenders from both sides, a strategic booking here and there for the main offenders and I suspect the game would have been more open since players would have known their boundaries. The fact that QPR did not have a single yellow card following their rugged highly physical performance is very telling.