When Craig Gardner smashed home from range to equalise for Birmingham and send the Wallys, Bananas, Tellytubbies and Mr Blobbys in the away end into rapture you knew that though you could understand their joy, you also suspected that it was too much too soon. The ‘Premier League Latest’ update soon slowly and tortuously rolled across the Jumbotrons to reveal that a goal by someone somewhere (Wigan at Stoke?) meant that the joyous celebrations were over before they’d begun – probably not because Birmingham had moved back in to the bottom three, more likely because the situation was so tight that it took a phone call to Stephen Hawking to confirm what the current standings were after each scoreline change.
It’s strange to have a game where most of the drama surrounded action elsewhere rather than on the field, but that’s because Birmingham were so inept that they were mostly incapable of making anything happen at WHL to help themselves out. Gardner’s strike was of a quality that didn’t fit in with anything else on display from the away team. Tree trunks at the back and terriers in midfield. A couple of speed merchants up front and a set up and attitude that from the moment Ben Foster took an age to take his first goal kick you knew was designed to support the theory that we’ve come with a point and we think if we leave with one, that’ll be enough. It was a mistake, it wouldn’t have been enough as it turns out, but perhaps Mcleish thought that with the resources available that was all he could do. After the final whistle he said he thought they’d played well and with discipline but if that’s the case and this is the best they can do then it’s no wonder they’re in the plight they are.
As for us, we looked unbalanced with Modric on the left (perhaps Harry was trying to keep him on one side of the shop window) as we always do and despite the purposeful approach of Sandro, Rose, Lennon and Huddlestone (to a degree) the overwhelming possession we had was tough to turn into chances or shots. Sandro yet again seemed to be everywhere and it was he who worked Foster most with a couple of attempts on goal, one from a fine angle. Modric also shot at the keeper and Lennon had the ball taken off his toes when close to pulling the trigger. Crouch was struggling against the beanpoles in the Blues back four and it almost seemed an act of mercy when he was taken off with a head injury about 5 minutes before half time.
Pavlyuchenko’s lack of brawn and occasional sulks mean that he’s not Harry’s favourite players which is a shame, because as he demonstrated in this game, he does have something about him and the suspicion remains that by leaving him on the bench, you leave goals there too, and it’s goals we’ve been desperately short of this season. His beautifully curled effort past Foster’s left whilst the keeper just watched it fly in was the moment when the Birmingham fans might have started thinking that this perhaps wasn’t to be their day. As the away team piled forward at the end desperate to score the goal that they needed to keep them up, Pav took advantage when other players were in better positions and, via a deflection, his shot dipped over the hapless keeper and into the net. That was the last kick of the game and that was the end for the Blues.
I think you’ve got to feel for their fans a bit, when they brought Arsenal’s season to a grinding halt at Wembley in February they would’ve been delirious and it’s not their fault that the team haven’t built on that and delivered more. Their support was good today (though they did go very quiet when they were behind), and it’s good to see Wallys rather than Zulus. You could also argue that you’ve got to feel for our fans a bit too. Finishing fifth in this league is something to be proud of. The Europa League on the back of the season we’ve had in the CL this will be something of a let down I’m sure, but we just need to think positively. Players who don’t normally get first team experience will in all likelihood be given it plus there will no doubt be other ‘glamour’ European sides who also haven’t qualified for the top competition so there will be big games to play and top sides to see. Also, it’s a competition we could win.
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