Winter is fast approaching and the mornings are cold and misty. Saturday morning dawned as one such and I was up just before the sun bathed the garden with its milky first light. One of the things I love about being a lark is that being up early, you get to see things that those lying in under the duvet don’t. I looked out into the back garden whilst enjoying a cup of coffee and saw a pair of magpies playfully chasing one another in the upper branches but then my glance lowered to the ground and their at the back near the fence was a beautiful, majestic fox elegantly moving across my patio behind a fruit cage I have and having investigated the possibility of a final pre-slumber snack looked to the top of the fencing and with incomparable,effortless grace leapt onto the top and over to its lair the other side. Things like that lift the soul and win or lose today it was going to be a good day.
I made my way down to Blackwater station a little earlier than usual to get the 09.28 train. I needed to call in on my disabled cousin in Sutton Coldfield then double back to New Street to meet up with Chris, Will and the boys at the George or so I hoped if the plan came together. I met my mate, Tim on the train recently recovered from a nasty bug that had been going round. Tim is always better organised than me and had booked reserved tickets on the train but despite it being packed I managed to find an empty chair near his so we could continue our conversation. Tim had missed a lot of games due to illness but like me was pleased with our form at home and frustrated with the away results despite our good play. A new signing this week, hopeful speculation for January, the suspension of Harlee Dean; there was much to discuss! The great thing about having company on the journey is that the time passes quickly and we were soon at New Street where we parted and I made for the Lichfield bound connection.
It was at this point that things turned seriously pear shaped. A safety step that I was ferrying up to my disabled cousin had been placed in the overhead storage and despite looking at it two minutes before I got off the train at New Street, yes you guessed it, idiot that I am, I left it behind. I only realised this fact when I was congratulating myself for making the Lichfield train connection by the skin of my teeth; that awful moment when you discover that you are an incompetent imbecile. There was nothing for it and with Mrs Bazza’s rebuke ringing in my ears I frantically obtained numbers for Manchester Piccadilly station lost property office only to discover that it was closed until Monday (so helpful!) but I did manage to register the item and so await developments. Failing that, it’s a case of buy another and put the experience down to life’s rich tapestry.
The late running of the train meant a flying visit to my cousin, Janet and I felt bad that I could only stay a mere half an hour but having downed a tot of whiskey that she had kindly poured for me believing I probably needed its smoky inner warmth, I found myself back on the train back to New Street. It was raining very heavily by now and the chill of the afternoon was the worse for it. I looked for a bus but ended up walking down through Digbeth from town and as the Coventry Road is blocked off after 2 pm anyway, a bus would not have helped a great deal as it drops you a fair distance from the ground anyway. I got to the George by 2.15 and ordered a pint for Chris and me and two cokes for little Jack and his mate, Raf whilst Will and little Will went to the shop. I looked like a drowned rat with the steam evaporating off my jacket and despite the fact that it was meant to be waterproof, I was aware that the garments underneath were a little damp. I was reminded of my Army training when in similar conditions we were invited to dig a trench with rudimentary field tools in rock hard ground. We all got piss wet through and freezing cold and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I shivered at the thought and supped my pint as I was joined by the others.
We got in the ground just before kick off, grabbed a generous portion of Rendang beef with sweet potato mash at the Cookhouse and we went up to our seats. A minute’s silence was observed with regards to Armistice Day and the teams aligned and kicked off. Blues started on the front foot on the slick wet surface and could have taken an early lead when Dan Crowley played an excellent ball from deep inside his own half to Kerim Mrabti who teed up Krystian Pedersen for a shot that was well saved by Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal. Blues were playing some slick attractive football in the first 20 minutes or so but it was the Cottagers who had the ball in the net just on the quarter hour when following a lovely fast flowing move, Mitrovic netted at the far post following a driving run and cross from Anthony Knockaert who was impressive all afternoon. The noisy away support celebrations were muted though by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Blues continued to have the better of it in the first quarter of the match and Crowley should have done better with a shot from 20 yards which sailed over the bar when a low shot on a greasy pitch was far more likely to bring dividends. Mrabti demonstrated how it should be done moments later but his shot was straight at Rodak. The Fulham keeper was called into action again soon after when Mrabti pulled the ball back for Fran Villalba to shoot only for Rodak to palm the attempt away to safety. Fulham were continuing to contribute to an attractive match and nearly scored with about 25 minutes gone. Jude Bellingham was guilty of dwelling on the ball in midfield and turned into trouble instead of playing the simple pass. Anthony Knockaert robbed him of the ball, drove forward and played an exquisite ball through our rearguard to the back post. Bobby Decordova-Reid was a stud’s length away from putting the visitors one up. Fulham were coming more into the game as the half wore on and Blues started to give the ball away cheaply.
Just before half time with the ball over on the Family Stand side an incident occurred on the half way line on the Kop side between Mitrovic and Jude Bellingham. I didn’t see the incident personally but little Jack told me that Bellingham had taken exception to some contact (a kick I understand) from the Serb who the proceeded to strike the youngster. There was some handbags at that juncture and play was stopped as the referee consulted his assistant. The crowd nearby had seen something more and were baying “off! off! off!” clearly in the direction of newly appointed pantomime villain, Mitrovic. I can only surmise that the assistant has seen the aftermath and not the main incident and as the referee was following the play on the other side of the pitch his decision was to book both players which with the evidence he had was the correct decision. Mitrovic, it seems, had got away with the red card and I remarked to Chris that the bugger would probably score in the second half!
Well unfortunately, the gospel according to St Bazza proved a true prophesy! Fulham continued where they had left off at the end of the first half in the ascendency with Birmingham still infuriatingly not cherishing the ball when in possession thereby wasting good field position when they had it. Blues were lucky not to go behind when shoddy, indecisive defending led to a shot from Decordova-Reid. Fortunately, the shot from about 15 yards was straight at Camp who was able to gather at the second attempt. However, Blues failed to heed the warning and soon after an innocuous ball floated up towards Mitrovic by Cyrus Christie appeared to be claimed by Camp; indeed he got two hands on it only to drop it right at the striker’s feet. The Serbian needed no second invitation to notch his twelfth goal of the campaign from two yards out. He will not score an easier one all season. Camp protested that there had been a foul on him but I reckon he just dropped it. However, I do think there was a clear foul on Marc Roberts but the referee was unmoved and it was going to be uphill from here given the fact that Fulham were looking better on the ball, more careful in possession and the plain truth of it is, they have better players. Fulham looked to put the game to bed with attempts from Knockaert and Odoi.
Things needed to change as the game was going away from us and Pep Clotet brought on new boy Bela, Alvaro Gimenez and Montero in an attempt to salvage the game. There was a discernible difference as Blues pressured the visitors but could not get that little run of the ball that often makes the difference. Rodak was excellent in the Fulham goal saving one header from Jutkiewicz, who put in another solid shift, onto the bar. The ball ping-ponged around the Fulham box following a fierce drive from Sunjic but it simply would drop to a Blues foot or deflect our way. It grew increasingly frantic and left us open to the counter. Mitrovic found himself free in the area but Marc Roberts got back at him. A pirouette dive with tuck failed to win him the penalty he was trying to blag off the referee but no second yellow card resulted. Towards the end, Fulham nearly settled matters when substitute, Aboubakar Kamara found himself clean through one on one with Camp but the ball cannoned off the inside of the post to safety. Five minutes was added on (nowhere near enough in my view to take account of the blatant time wasting and dark art game management by Fulham; I don’t blame them incidentally, this is a matter for strong officiating which was sorely lacking!) Fulham saw it out comfortably and Blues had their second home defeat of the season.
I summary, Blues didn’t play that badly but they were somewhat below par in comparison with recent home performances. We lost because Fulham took care of possession better, they were more comfortable on the ball and they have an out and out striker. A draw would easily have been a fair result but when you have a numpty of a keeper who drops the ball at the feet of the Championship’s leading scorer you ain’t gonna win. Camp had two things to do all afternoon and he fluffed his lines. He has to catch the cross regardless of whether he is nudged and regardless of whether Roberts was clearly fouled. Lee Camp is costing Blues way too many points and top priority must be a goalkeeper in January if he is still considered the best option we have, heaven forbid!
The Good: The company of Tim on the journey to and from home, Chris, Will, little Jack, little Will and Raf at the game and the Rendang beef at the Cookhouse.
The Bad: Forgetfulness on my part in leaving the item that was the main reason for my visit to Sutton Coldfield on the train. Idiot!
The Ugly: The weather; it was absolutely horrible; it tipped it down virtually all day and it was the sort of drenching when you get soaked through. At this point I would spare a thought for those poor souls whose homes are flooded in the north and parts of the Midlands right now; it puts losing a football match and getting a bit wet into perspective doesn’t it?
Birmingham City: Lee Camp 3, Maxime Colin 5, Jake Clarke-Salter 4, Mark Roberts 6, Krystian Pedersen 7, Dan Crowley 6 (Alvaro Gimenez 62, 5) Fran Villalba 6 (Jefferson Montero 79, 6) Ivan Sunjic 7, Jude Bellingham 5, Lukas Jutkiewicz 7, Kerim Mrabti 5 (Jeremie Bela 61, 7)
Subs not used: Conor Trueman, David Davis, Jacque Maghoma, Wes Harding.
Fulham: Marek Rodak 7, Denis Odoi 6, Alfie Mawson 8, Tim Ream 7, Maxime Le Marchand 6 (Cyrus Christie 34, 6) Stefan Johansen 7, Harrison Reed 7, Anthony Knockaert 7, Bobby Decordova-Reid 7 (Aboubakar Kamara 81, N/A) Aleksander Mitrovic 7, Ivan Cavaleiro 6 (Josh Onomah 65, 6)
Subs not used: Kevin McDonald, Neeskens Kebano, Luca de la Torre, Marcus Bettinelli.
Goals: Mitrovic 51.
Yellow cards: Mitrovic 45 + 3, Christie 78.
Referee: Jarred Gillett 3: It really gives me no pleasure to disparage the bloke who earns the least of anyone on the pitch but this was a lamentable performance. He completely failed to grip the blatant time wasting by Fulham in the second half. Rodak should have been booked early on in the second period just after Fulham took the lead but he wasn’t and as long as professional footballers feel they can get away with the dark arts, they will continue to push the boundaries. He failed to see the clear foul on Roberts leading up to the goal and he failed to give Mitrovic a second booking for diving. Some of the decisions were questionable and some just plain wrong. I don’t think he can be blamed for the incident with Mitrovic in the first half as neither he nor his assistant clearly saw it but Mitrovic is a lucky boy by all accounts and it is vexing that he should end up deciding the contest but life isn’t always fair. I haven’t seen this official before and on this evidence I hope not to for a long time to come.
5 Comments on View from the South – Birmingham City v Fulham
A very informed report that seems fair and was a pleasure to read. Many thanks from a Fulham supporter.
Thank you NicK. Good of you to read my report. I have always tried to write in a balanced way otherwise it makes for partisan slugfests which neither inform nor please anybody. I felt your team looked better equipped to challenge for a play off place than us because we have obvious weaknesses namely goalkeeper and lack of an out and out striker. I feel we need another centre back as well to add depth but whether we can obtain such players at a price we can afford is another matter. There is no doubt we are getting better but we have a way to go to be as competitive as Fulham, Leeds and West Brom who simply have stronger squads. We’re midtable and frankly as I’ve said since the season started that is about where we will finish up in my view. However, I may be proved wrong if we can get the aforementioned players in January. In a Championship that is much of a muchness three or four wins on the spin can catapult you up the table and there will undoubtedly be a team that makes the play-offs from nowhere so who knows?
As usual a good assessment of the game. What I do feel however is the continued liability of Lee Camp.You made the journey like thousands of supporters only to be let down by this Kamikaze player fraudulently posing as a goalkeeper. Enough is certainly enough and my platform on Vital Birmingham will be used to pressure our owners to get him replaced even before the next window.
It may well have been a foul on Roberts for the goal, but we won the last whole match with a Juke header where it could be argued that he climbed all over the back of the defender.
Swings and roundabouts.
Great write up as ever Bazza. Did you get the ramp??