West Bromwich Albion 2 - Birmingham City 3
I thought this one was a must-win game to kick start our season and, I'm afraid to say, we were really really poor.
The starting lineup was justifiable although I'd hoped BTA would get the nod up front. But I have absolutely no idea what the plan was or what we'd been doing on the training pitch over the last 10 days.
With the delayed kickoff and the preceding necessaries, we seemed to be stuck in a trance. Perhaps we were trying to avoid cheap early goals but from the first minute we didn't press at all or play with any tempo - the 'no pressure' approach allowing Blues the time to ping straight balls up to Deeney who would bully Bartley all night. We could've been behind in the first minute.
Even if Deeney didn't win it, Hogan, Bacuna and Chong were on to the second balls much quicker. This was basic stuff and they always seemed to outnumber us in midfield and in front of our back 4.
On the ball we were terrible - Okay couldn't find an Albion shirt, Wallace and Diangana were too deep or too narrow all the time, Swift didn't get the ball in any space, our full backs had very little to hit and Grant showed his usual awareness and movement. Molumby was the pick of our team... and that isn't a great place to be.
Blues took a deserved lead following Okay losing the ball - Molumby getting sucked in and taken out of the game, O'Shea being nutmegged and Bartley more worried looking at the lino than marking and tackling.
It didn't wake us up too much but, in a move that demonstrated how bad Blues are at the back, we got back into it in 3 passes with Grady (deep and central) releasing Molumby who played a great first time pass for Wallace to finish well.
It was pretty painful stuff for the rest of the half although at least we managed to get on top of it possession-wise.
Second half wasn't much better although we started to build some momentum before, after some sloppy play we lost the ball having been slightly over-committed. You could say that Blues broke fantastically and scored a greater counter-attacking goal, but from our point of view I have no idea what Bartley was doing trying to intercept the ball and O'Shea was too slow to cover Hogan - half a yard quicker would've cut out the cross.
Not surprisingly Okay was hooked given his performance with BTA coming on up front and Grant going left with Grady in the hole.
There was more huffing and puffing but I can only recall one dangerous moment where Wallace got all the way to the byline but (and I couldn't see why from the back of the Smethwick) failed to pick out anyone for a sitter.
As we pressed there was time for another omni-howler - sloppy play, lost the ball, Bartley (I can only assume wanting to keep the ball in as we were chasing the game) nodded a ball back into play with everyone out of position and then as Hogan was played in, just allowing him to run towards goal, and keep running, and then toe-poke a near post effort in unchallenged. What was Bartley doing? What was Button doing? Just dreadful... and the boos rang loudly, and then continued every time he got the ball. Understandable but not going to help is it?
Bruce had to get him off so on came Pieters, Livermore and Phillips. Grant, Bartley and TGH making way.
Like many I was making to leave when BTA, showing basic forward movement and endeavour, won a penalty (looked a free kick to me, but also a red, so whatever) and put it away well.
Lulled into a grandstand finish with 6 minutes of extra time, Blues took the sting out of it with your classic delaying tactics and that final chance didn't come.
In truth, they probably deserved the win. Hogan and Deeney are both better than anything we've got and they stayed up top all night - no dropping deep. They were ultimately the difference.
A terrible result to match a terrible start and there were lots of Bruce Out mutterings - the question being who is available who would come, cost nothing and do any better?
Whilst I sympathise with those views - for example, what the hell are we doing with set pieces? - it's another game that we dominated on play, attempts and corners even though we were miles off it.
The bigger villain here is Lai - even at the death of the window, where has the Robinson money gone? We desperately needed another target-man type forward. We needed it at the start of the window. He's taken all of the money out of the club in a stupidly short-sighted way because this division is terrible... even worse than last year. There will never be a better chance to get out of it but January is too late - we'll be too far behind it by then. Could any manager do a job in these circumstances?
I couldn't care less about Bruce... we have bigger problems.
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