With the rain lashing down on a dismal and cold November evening, droves of Huddersfield Town fans headed to the exits with Birmingham scoring a third goal. Who could blame them either; this was a performance that was gutless, toothless and just damn right awful.
I was one of those who decided enough was enough; I lasted until the 90 minutes was up but couldn’t bear watching added time as Town chased a game they were never going to get back into. Nobody can really blame those who chose to walk when Kyle Bartley headed in his second unmarked header from a set-piece and an incredible sense of déjà vu overcame many a Town fan when Birmingham’s third hit the back of the net.
Although this performance wasn’t as bad as the winless run under Simon Grayson last term, the Birmingham result seems like a regression from all the good work that Mark Robins has put since taking over as Town boss. The passing game that Robins has tried to instil this season just vanished as the tendency from last season to lump it forward returned; it played right into Birmingham’s hands.
Why revert back to playing long ball against a side with plenty of height and a certain striker in Nicola Zigic, god knows how he once played for Valencia but the height he has made him nigh on unbeatable in the air. Anthony Gerrard coped well with him to be fair, but the Brum defenders had easy picking as their defenders picked off long ball after long ball.
Whilst most fans chose to aim their anger at Jon Stead who was consistently beaten in the air by Bartley, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for our home grown striker. Stead certainly isn’t the player that left us nearly a decade ago but one thing is for sure he has never ever been someone to play up top on his own, never mind someone to win lots of aerial battles.
You would think that a side which has managed to compete so far with teams you would expect to be in the promotion race would play to their own strengths. The few times Stead got the ball into his feet, he managed to bring the likes of Adam Hammill and Danny Ward into the game, but these moments were too few in the time he was on the pitch.
The biggest worry though was the inability to defend set pieces. Five goals in the past three games have been conceded from corners and free-kicks, whilst you may say that the odd goal from a set-piece is understandable, the regularity and ease of which Town are giving away goals from corners and free kicks is pathetic for a Championship club.
Oscar Gobern twice lost his man in Bartley and twice we were punished, last week Lynch lost his man and Wigan profited from it and Dexter Blackstock also scored with his first touch in the West Yorkshire derby. The loss of James Vaughan through his petulance due to suspension obviously plays a big role in this as he is fantastic in the air, yet it’s worrying that several individuals are repeatedly making the same error and costing us goals.
Whilst the fickle fans somehow configure a way to blame Alex Smithies for every goal that Town concede, he cannot do a single thing when opposition players are allowed to have simple free headers in the area time after time. A professional football team should not be letting that happen.
It is clear that we lack the depth of any clubs in this division with the likes of Vaughan and Jonathan Hogg not available and the seemingly self-imposed exile of Adam Clayton and Martin Paterson due to a tiff in training. What worries me is that we haven’t really delved into the loan market like other clubs have with the exception of Jazz Richards.
If there is no money in the pot to improve the current squad, even if it is temporarily, then Robins must look at ways to try and find some of the form we had at the start of the season, possibly by readopting the 3-5-2 formation.
Thankfully though the international break allows us to regroup and more importantly time on the training ground to learn how to defend a set piece. Whilst fans may also need a break after witnessing two very poor defeats, another issue is the fact that in an attempt to attract more fans through “friend for a fiver”, those who took the promotion offer up were forced to watching that shower of utter shite and probably won’t come down for a while. Can you really blame them?!
Please god Town players and management, sort it out please! We can’t be having another relegation battle.