It’s now 11 league games without a win, three months without a home win and the teams below us starting are to win. Is it time for Town fans to start worrying? Yes. Is it time to start panicking? Not quite yet.
Yesterday was another below average performance, but not as bad as some fans made out and definitely not as bad as what Town fans had to endure over the Christmas period. Where Lee Clark gets the idea his side was better yesterday is beyond me, Smithies was hardly tested and Town clearly has the better chances.
However, something is not quite right. The fitness levels of the player’s looks poor, the decision making at times is shocking and once again the reliance on the long ball is annoying. Something needs to change, whether it be Grayson’s tactics or possibly personnel.
The first half yesterday was promising; we looked comfortable, yet rather unremarkable at times. The best chance though fell our way through Sean Scannell’s (more on him later) wonderful overhead kick which Jack Butland managed to claw away, a world class save. James Vaughan saw a free header go wide and Jermaine Beckford could only direct a cross from Jack Hunt straight into the hands of Butland.
One minute of added time announced, see it out and them come back and build on a solid first half. That would be too easy wouldn’t it. The impressive Chris Burke whipped in a ball which Town failed to deal with, a lucky deflection off Hunt and the ball fell to Callum Reilly to slot home. Talk about a kick in the teeth.
Not many teams come back from being behind to win games in the Championship, so we were facing an uphill struggle from then on, especially when Clark brought on the defensive minded Spector at half-time and from the off it seemed his job was to try and close down Hunt.
Whilst the first half may have been solid by Town the start of the second was poor. Beckford and Vaughan looked off their games, Ollie Norwood who looked better off the ball first half continued with his poor performances and was substituted and Adam Clayton look subdued. Paul Dixon also found himself being skinned on several occasions.
One player who did take the game by the scruff of the neck was Scannell. Two or three times he beat several Birmingham players and gave us an attacking outlet, whilst looking dangerous. However, whilst some Town fans will heap copious amounts of praise on Scannell, I’d argue he wasn’t anywhere near as good as people made out yesterday.
Firstly, his end product was poor. It’s perfectly fine beating two or three men but you have to supply a cross or a pass that creates a fantastic run into a meaningful attack, most of the time he failed to do so. Secondly, he comes across as a bit of a one trick pony. Too many time yesterday there was space in behind the full back, yet he sat back on the halfway line waiting for the ball just to run at players, which also meant that Dixon could rarely get forward, added to that the inability to look up and find another player. Finally, his tracking back, or lack of it. After an attack he would just wander back with no intent leaving Dixon exposed, sometimes Beckford or Vaughan would have to go out of position and cover for him whilst he lazily dawdled back. Yes Scannell had a decent game yesterday but it isn’t as good as some fans have been making out! Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the lad, but I think that there are much better options in our squad.
Anyway as Town pressed for an equaliser, Birmingham looked quite good on the break. Alex Smithies was forces into his first save of real note with 15 minutes left from Marlon King. In fact except for catching a tame effort in the first half, Alex wasn’t tested at all.
Anyway as well all know with a Lee Clark side, in the last ten minutes they will drop further and further back and yesterday was no exception. Town went route one (which they had to) towards Alan Lee and he nearly scored when he latched onto a Lee Novak knock down, only for the impressive Butland to brilliantly deny him. Again Birmingham had Butland to thank from the resulting corner, this time denying Beckford at point blank range, you couldn’t help but think it wasn’t going to be our day.
Then Adam Hammill popped up with a fantastic bit of skill after an Alan Lee knock down, taking on several Birmingham players before cutting back and curling a brilliant effort into the top left corner, a great individual goal. I only hope that we can extend his loan, but I fear Dean Saunders may take him back to a struggling Wolves. Not a bad way to bow out eh?
Ah well, a deserved point in my opinion but unlike Christmas there were some positives to take. Something has to change though whether it be tactics, personnel or even the addition of one or two players. I do think we have to start playing with two wingers, we looked more of an attacking threat when Hammill was on the pitch and unlike the consensus who think that playing a central midfielder out wide will allow Hunt to get forward, I think Hunt is able to bomb on more when someone like Hammill is running at the defence, as witnessed yesterday.
One worry though is the central midfield at time wasn’t getting forward enough or offering themselves when the wingers found themselves outnumbered, something that clearly needs rectifying.
Ah well, a decent point and one more closer to the magic 50 and Birmingham have Butland to thank for that. Another game without a win is soul crushing though and I can’t see us getting anything from Watford, but you never know. Perhaps we may win a game in February.
Are we in a relegation dog fight just yet? No. Are we being dragged into it? With every game we don’t win, yes. However, four wins and I believe we will be safe.
p.s Birmingham City’s socks….. REALLY?!