View from the South- Birmingham City v Stoke City

Unlike Burlington Bertie who rose at ten-thirty and walked down the street like a toff, I awoke at six-thirty as usual despite the fact that it was the weekend and a little lie-in might be good. I tend to be an early riser and am the lark of the family. I’ve never been one for hanging about in bed once awake and the insistent nag of my bladder easily overcame the warm, comforting embrace of the duvet and so “carpe diem” it was whether I wanted to or not. Shaved and showered, I went downstairs and took Bentley, my neighbour’s little Cairn Terrier out for his walk; he is staying with us whilst she is on holiday abroad.
Since my last report we have played another two games with contrasting results. I drove up last Tuesday evening for the match against Barnsley and overall I felt Blues put in a pretty decent performance which was rewarded by another goal from Lukas Jutkiewicz in identical fashion to that scored against Bristol and a lovely finish from Gimenez lobbing the keeper following an exquisite cross field pass from Seddon. A deserved 2-0 win and three points sent the faithful home happy and the long drive south is so much easier when you’ve won I can tell you!
In total contrast, the away game at Swansea was a comprehensive defeat having got through three quarters of the match 0-0. The 5-3-2 system worked well until someone made a mistake. Swansea had struggled to break down the stubborn rearguard but Davis was slow getting out to his man and allowed the opponent to get his shot off. I think Camp should have done better with a stronger hand and getting beat at the near post but once Swansea scored it was all over since we offered no threat all afternoon. A combination of Villaba getting bullied off the ball and Wes Harding, who had been excellent against Barnsley, not tracking his man, a second duly arrived followed rapidly by a clear penalty conceded by Roberts. A 3-0 defeat was the third away reverse of the same score on the spin and a plan B is needed soon otherwise I can only see more games like this. At this juncture, a dose of realism is needed. The squad is improved in overall quality on last season but we have lost goal threat. There are still significant limitations which suggest we are not going to be challenging the top six. Whilst I am sure that some teams, like Brentford, will get mugged, I doubt there will be enough occasions to merit a high finish. I suspect we’ll be OK though.
Will called up just after I had got back from walking Bentley. Will and his family had been in France on holiday for a couple of weeks but hadn’t got back until very late Friday night, a hold up through customs by all accounts and decided he was too whacked to contemplate the journey. I set off for the train which arrived on time at Blackwater and got to Reading in plenty of time for my connection to Coventry to meet up with Chris at the station. I had also spoken to him on the phone and we decided that we needed to get to St Andrews in good time so we could visit the George, something we managed before the Barnsley game and indeed other recent matches that we had then gone on to win. That’s superstition for you and most fans have the odd one in my experience. I love a plan when it comes together; the trains were on time, Chris was at Coventry station to pick me up, we got to St Andrews in good time in the company of Emma and both of her boys, little Jack and Seb. This was Seb’s second game and at least for his sake, I was hoping against all hope that Blues didn’t do the usual pratfall against a side bottom of the league! Those of you who have supported Birmingham City as long as I have will know exactly what I mean. 🙁
Perish the thought; positivity in all things, the die was cast, the hunt was on, it was time to gird our loins, for Harry and England and all that! Some of the Agincourt spirit was needed to watch this! The less said about the first half, the better. Both teams were absolutely dire in a joyless watch that yielded a single shot on target for Stoke early on routinely saved by Camp at the near post and a skied effort by Sunjic for Blues that only troubled the bloke finishing off his pie in the away end. Their fans were noisy and raucous and with good reason as they were the better side for the most part but that wasn’t difficult, so poor were Blues. Stoke could have been ahead as early as the fourth minute when Liam Lindsay lifted the ball into Lee Gregory  whose fierce shot from wide was well saved at the near post by Camp. However, overall the standard of passing was dreadful making the game scrappy and not very entertaining.
The officiating did not help with every minor infringement leading to a stoppage meaning there was no flow or rhythm to the match. Frankly, the half time whistle was blessed relief! The only other two noteworthy comments to make about the first half was the unfortunate injury to Montero making his  first start at St Andrews. He pulled up suddenly and fell to the ground with what appeared to be a muscle pull in the thigh. The referee gave a free kick against him for what I can only surmise was simulation! The stretcher was required to carry him off and he was immediately replaced by Jude Bellingham so the man in the middle got that one wrong. The other incident on 42 minutes looked like a clear foul on Gimenez when the striker had robbed the defender and was wriggling free towards goal. It looked a clear penalty from where I was sitting but after another stoppage to attend to the striker the game continued with a goal kick.
My misgivings about our history with teams at the bottom of the league were realised at the start of the second half. Stoke sensed we were there for the taking and were unlucky not to take the lead on 50 minutes when following a flowing move, Sam Clucas delivered a lovely through ball to Lee Gregory who chipped past Camp only for the ball to rebound off the far post. Joe Adam should have buried the rebound but took a touch and the chance ended up in the side netting the wrong side of the upright. Stoke continued to look the better and more dangerous side and their dominance in midfield was starting to result in a series of free kicks around the box in dangerous areas. Peter Etebo almost scored from a poorly defended set piece on 57 minutes but his volley whistled past the post with a relieved Lee Camp looking on. From another one of these an inswinging cross from Tommy Smith to Lindsay brought the goal that had been coming for a while. The delivery was good but the defending and goalkeeping poor and it was 0-1 with no sign as to how Blues were going to get back into the game.
Pep Clotet replaced Villalba who had not had a good game with Dan Crowley in midfield and there is no doubt that this made a difference to the midfield dynamism. Blues started to move the ball quicker and from the best football of the afternoon initiated by Crowley to David Davis who despite a poor afternoon for him provided an excellent pass to Maxime Colin who delivered a lovely flighted cross to the far post where for the third time in three home games, Lukas Jutkiewicz headed down and into the Tilton Road net to wake up the ever willing St Andrews crowd. The game had suddenly improved though it had taken well over an hour for it to happen.
Jude Bellingham was causing Stoke problems down the right and providing much needed guile, pace and width. From one of his runs he turned inside and clearly thought about trying to feed Jutkiewicz or Gimenez but with the defenders backing off he took the shot on. In truth he didn’t catch the ball all that well but a lucky deflection off a defender diverted the ball past the helpless Federici who had moved off in the opposite direction to field the original shot. Substitute, Gary Gardner could even have made it 3-1 near the end but his shot from the inside left position was well saved by Federici. Blues, aided and abetted by the home crowd, managed the last quarter of an hour plus the six minutes added on to secure a pleasing p, if not altogether, convincing victory. The truth is that we weren’t the better side but football is like that sometimes. I fear for Stoke, they have problems. It looks to be a long winter ahead for them.
The Good: The beef rendang and rice at the Cookhouse just before the game.
The Bad: The game; it wasn’t very good although it got better after Stoke scored.
The Ugly: The win; however, the three points count the same as those gained in a thrilling classic.
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 6, Maxime Colin 6, Harlee Dean 6, Mark Roberts 6, Krystian Pedersen 6, Fran Villalba 4 (Dan Crowley 54, 6) David Davis 5, Ivan Sunjic 6, Jefferson Montero 5 (Jude Bellingham 30, 6) Lukas Jutkiewicz 7 (Gary Gardner 84, N/A) Alvaro Gimenez 6.
Subs not used: David Stockdale, Craig Gardner, Kerim Mrabti, Wes Harding.
Goals: Jutkiewicz 73, Bellingham 76.
Yellow cards: Crowley 78, Gardner 90 + 4.
Stoke City: Adam Federici 6, Stephen Ward 6 (Scott Hogan 79, 5) Tommy Smith 6, Danny Batth 6, Liam Lindsay 6, Sam Clucas 6, Tom Ince 6 (Mark Duffy 84, N/A) James McClean 6, Oghenkaro Peter Etebo 7, Joe Allen 5, Lee Gregory 5 (Tyrese Campbell 86, N/A)
Subs not used: Sam Vokes, Adam Davies, Bruno Martins Indi, Jordan Cousins.
Goals: Lindsay 58.
Yellow cards: McClean.

Referee: James Linington: 4; I gave myself 24 hours to reflect on the referee’s performance because frankly he wasn’t very good but I was anxious to make my comments measured and not indulge in the language of hyperbole. Whilst the players have to take the lion’s share of the blame for making the game a tedious spectacle, it doesn’t help when the referee blows the whistle for every petty foul or infringement plus standing on ceremony as to which blade of grass the game should be restarted from. I’m not suggesting that Mr Linington never waved play on for the advantage; he did but he simply didn’t do it often enough. The game ended up stop, start, stop start and it was frustrating to watch. Finally, the one key decision at the end of the first half, namely the penalty appeal when Alvaro Gimenez was grabbed round the neck and pulled to the ground was bottled.

Attendance: 20,652 (2,026 away fans)

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9 Comments on View from the South- Birmingham City v Stoke City

  1. Have you seen we have signed our first chinese player bernard son. It was ony a matter of time and surprise surprise hes a midfielder. cant find anything about him which is never a good sign plus hes on a free in september which makes it even worse! Thoughts?

  2. spot on what a terrible game but 3 points as for the penalty i thought the rugby world cup had started KRO

  3. 10 points on the board, 34 more points and we should be safe. I wasn’t expecting a season of glory, so a safe season and hopefully being one more season closer to the club being sold to someone who actually understands football is all I ask.

  4. Excellent report as always. Be nice one day to have you write regular articles for us at Vital. Good work Bazza.

  5. Mitchell, I’m deeply flattered but Kev knows that every blogger has his price and it depends whether Vital offer Joys & Sorrows enough. There again, it’s me wages in’ it? 😀 lol

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