Saturday 12th August, Blues at home to Bristol City for the first home league game of the 2017/18 season. I won’t lie, I wasn’t in confident mood going into this one. As I strolled up to St Andrews from New Street (strolled is an exaggeration with my knee the way it is, but hobbled isn’t quite as cheery) I thought to myself that we could be in for a challenging afternoon.
Bristol had come off the back of a couple of decent results and a glut of early goals. 8 goals, 6 of which would come in the first 30 minutes of football over 2 games should be enough for any team to take note.
In my head it was simple – get to half time without conceding, we have a chance to get a result from the game. Well, 57 seconds into the game that plan went out the door.
Nsue, who didn’t have the best game in defence was just all over the shop. Bristol’s number 9, Famara Diedhiou – who for me was MOTM, turned Nsue inside out before rifling a shot against the bar. Then with Blues unable to clear their lines Reid was able to capitalise with a deflected shot on goal.
The first half was utter tripe! I’m not sure any Blues fan could argue with that. Davis, who was clearly not at his best was simply awful. Later in transpired he had been ill in the run up to the game but was given the all clear to start. That decision, in hindsight was not the best.
Defensively we were all over the shop, N’Doye and Gardner had not control in midfield and Bristol, with the formidable Diedhiou leading the line were cutting through us with ease.
There were a couple of bright moments, but that was all they were – moments. One of these moments resulted in a goal for Craig Gardner, a ball pinging around the box from a throw-in and it comes out to Gardner who coolly placed his effort into the bottom left corner of the goal from the edge of the area. I did feel euphoric at the goal, don’t get me wrong. But up until that point and for a long period after Gardner for me was poor. There’s just not oomph in the middle of the park when he plays. He is not a defensive midfielder, and gets torn a new one all too easily.
A couple of changes are half time made things a little brighter. Kieftenbeld on for Davis had the greatest impact on the game. Maikel just ran and ran and ran (until his sending off) and didn’t give the Bristol Midfield time to rest. That is all our midfield needed, hustle. It was enough to get the rest of the team working a little better, playing a little better and it got its rewards.
I also feel the impact Cotterill made was significant. I’m still going to advocate balance in a team. I think, having a natural wide player playing in that position is better than forcing a central player to play outside. The team lacks balance like that and the player being forced out wide isn’t as effective so it’s like a double negative impact.
Maghoma’s goal was class. There’s not much more that can be said.
The sending off. Blimey, the sending off. Was it red? Pundits didn’t seem to think so, the crowd definitely didn’t, Redknapp didn’t, I definitely didn’t. the Ref on the other hand ….
The referee was awful. Darren Bond just absolutely failed to keep track of the game. It’s unfortunate to say, but the championship has a huge golf in the ability of its referees. This one swung the way of the very poor. Lack of consistent decisions, wrong calls and poor interpretations of the rules created an extremely frustrating afternoon for the Blues and the faithful.
After the sending off it was a massive ‘backs against the wall job’ to grind out a second win against Bristol City in 3 league games.
With the news Blues this morning has signed Isaac Vassell from Luton, I still think Blues are short a good attacking wide man, left or right I’m not fussed (I think Maghoma could play on the right out wide); more defensive cover (the sight of Robinson at left back terrifies me beyond belief); and a proper baller in midfield. I think that would see us in good stead for the rest of the season.
Anyway, roll on Bolton! Let’s see how nerve shredding this could be!