Well, perhaps murder is a bit extreme. Although if not that, certainly a case of “Call the police, there’s been a robbery” as Birmingham City left a sunset drenched Griffin Park with all three points yesterday following a 2-1 win over Brentford. With Norwich City also losing, again, it makes next weekend’s road trip very interesting indeed.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves and think about Carrow Road , let’s look back at this one first. For me, it was a game which could be summed up at the highest level in three quotes:
Birmingham City boss Gary Rowett :“We rode our luck and if luck was a horse I have won the Grand National today”.
Dean Smith: “If it was a boxing match it would have been stopped”
Phil Parry of BBC London : How is it still 1-0 to Brum??? How did Vibe not score?? Where’s Miss Marple?
First up, Mr Rowett. Honest of him to admit but, equally, teams ride their luck. Teams take their chances. Teams play worse and win. His Birmingham did that yesterday, ably helped by a couple of wonder saves from Tomasz Kuszczak in the second half.
As for the goals, both were presented to Birmingham on a plate. The first saw a penalty awarded for a foul on Clayton Donaldson as the former Bee ran onto a ball threaded straight through the midfield and our plethora of centre backs. Dan Bentley was adjudged to have brought him down and the spot kick duly despatched. Indeed, but for Andreas Bjelland running across, surely red would have been shown and, with it, a possible league debut for Jack Bonham.
The irony of Clayton even winning a penalty at Griffin Park was missed by nobody. I’ve lost count of the number of nailed on spot kicks denied in League One as he’d be kicked, tripped , manhandled or wrestled to the ground only to see his claims waived away. Maybe it was just a Brentford thing.
I’ve all the time in the world for the big man, even now. When his contract expired, Birmingham were there to offer him what he wanted and allow him to move closer to home. We couldn’t match that. And so some of the abuse he was coming in for yesterday seemed harsh – especially after the penalty. What’s he going to do – not score? I’m not going to openly cheer somebody who is now an opposition player but at the same time, have some class.
The second goal was an equally disappointing one to concede. Also, from a dead ball situation as a free kick was awarded in front of the away fans and out near the Braemar Road touchline . With all the time we needed to set ourselves up to defend, City were still able to float it over our plethora of centre backs to the far post where Ryan Shotton was able to stroll clear of his marker and tap home for 2-0.
As for Dean Smith, he can talk about it being a boxing match that should have been stopped but that’s not how football works. Nobody cares how much possession a team had, how many shots were rifled in or how unlucky you were. At the end of the day, Clive (and as we’ve said many times before) the only stat that counts is balls in the back of net.
“If we played them ten times again we would beat them nine times: It was that one sided” he also added – that one in the interview on ‘official’. He’s probably right but we got off to a very slow start in a system that took everybody some getting used to – three centre backs in the middle and a fourth playing out left, with Max Colin on the right. To be fair to Dean, I had wondered if this is how he would crowbar the glut of defensive talent together and so let’s not write this one off. Certainly, it allowed Barbet to get into some very advanced positions and I’ve a feeling we’ll see more of the same against Norwich next weekend.
Yet despite Brentford continuing to build the pressure, turn the screw and find ourselves in full ‘unlucky’ mode, it was the second half and Birmingham were 2 goals up. Then Scott Hogan happened. Again.
Getting onto the end of a ball floated into the box from Josh Clarke, he beat Kuzczak to dink his header past the otherwise excellent ‘keeper and into the back of the net to send the home fans delirious. It set up the proverbial grandstand finale in which if Dean Smith had a kitchen sink on the bench I’m sure he would have brought that on, such was the amount chucked at the Birmingham goal .
And then it happened. 2-2!! Andreas Bjelland with a header from a Ryan woods cross. Or was it Scott Hogan with the faintest of toe pokes from an Andreas Bjelland header? Either way, the one man goal machine was adjudged offside as a result. Standing behind the goal it looked like Bjelland’s effort all the way and a very harsh call from the referee and his his assistant. Brentford official were more diplomatic in their match repot saying, “It is possible that if Hogan had not touched it the goal may have stood but the movement of the Brentford man definitely affected Kuszczak and he would probably have saved it without the touch.”
The third quote at the top end was from Phil Parry, on Twitter, mid-match as Lasse Vibe failed to put it in from yards out with the ‘keeper beaten and two defenders on the line.
Gut reaction at the time was, like Phil, just how did he miss that? How? Looking back at the video – and you can see the highlights on Sky at present (until the BeesPlayer goes live at mid-day) – perhaps at first the ball gets gets caught up in his legs a bit. Likewise, he maybe takes one turn too many that allows the defenders time to position themselves more. Either way, a chance that he’ll be bitterly disappointed not to have buried from that starting position.
It was always going to be tough game. To be honest, we created more decent chances than I expected us to . It’s just a huge shame that when it came to putting them away a combination of great ‘keeping and bad luck have conspired against us. Then again, Birmingham City have delivered the quintessential lesson in taking the opportunity when it arises.
Dean Smith also noted at full time that, “We have played two weekends, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, and we should be sitting here really pleased with six points…However, we are here with zero and that is the Championship.”
It is Dean, it is. But with only 1 win from the last 8 games, I’m very interested to see what you do next to try and increase those points from zero to three. Surely it can’t all be down to bad luck?
As for next weekend and Norwich City, well they lost again yesterday. That’s five defeats in a row for the once high flying Canaries. Are they the ones to help us return to wining ways…?