A bit of a reality check for us perhaps? After the “Miracle at Half-time” against Ipswich we seemed to be gaining some momentum with two straight wins and confidence and positivity flowing through the club. And Birmingham were struggling weren’t they? Everyone expected a win, including me. Well not Steve McClaren, he was commendably realistic in the run up to this game.
90 mins later and 25,000 Rams fans drifted off home, frustrated and miserable. Or maybe that was just me. Still had time for a pint in the Brunswick though before getting the train back to London. That’s getting to be a habit.
A draw was unexpected but it was certainly a fair result. Brum were an organised, determined lot, they defended in numbers (with the famous “two banks of four) and did cause us some problems going forward. It was a scrappy game which, despite creating a fair few chances, we never controlled for any length of time. Consequently, the big crowd never really got going either, the atmosphere was subdued and any chanting tended to come with a Birmingham accent.
Things could have gone either way – Wardy was clean through in the first minute (via a Baresi like defence splitting pass from Bucko), there were a few missed chances for Sammon at the end and lanky beanpole Serbian striker Zidic smashed a header against the post too. There were times in the first half when Chris Burke ran us ragged, his injury and early departure let us off the hook I think.
Andre Wisdom, playing at right back in place of the diminutive Adam Smith, had a fine debut. The word on the street was that we needed his height to combat Brum at set pieces but he clearly has so much more to his game than that. Unbelievably composed on the ball, he looked strong and quick, equally at ease going forward and defending. Most people’s man of the match and came across as a mature lad in his post match interview. Great, we’ve got him for the rest of the season, think about that. Perhaps he’ll slot in next to Keogh for the QPR game, otherwise Adam Smith’s in trouble (I know Spurs want him to kick on this season, he can’t do that from the bench). We could really do with someone who can pass the ball out of central defence (Bucko’s had his quota of defence splitting passes this season..), so maybe that’s where we’ll see him next.
You could say that Chris Martin had a bit of an off day. He lost possession easily, didn’t hold the ball up particularly well, and looked ponderous and off the pace (well, more than usual). Didn’t win too many free kicks either. A lot of our attacking play revolves around Martin’s guile and so this obviously meant we stuttered a bit up front. Bryso, on his 100th start, was relatively anonymous and Will didn’t have one of his best games either. Even Eustace was less effective, bypassed in midfield at least once and nearly decapitating a Brum player for his booking.
We appeared to lose concentration for the Brum goal (me too, I was looking at my phone..). Looked a bit offside from what I saw. Obviously, it was a cracking strike from Novak. Grant looked out of position to me. He had a strange game, punching the ball away repeatedly at set pieces when it looked easier to catch it. I hope Eric Steele’s not been telling him to do that..
At the end, we were left with relying on Bucko and Keogh to lump balls forward (was it wise to aim most of these in the direction of Bennett on the left?!).
Dawkins showed some good touches going forward and should get a lot of credit for setting up Ward’s goal. In my view, Wardy was brilliant for most of the game, relishing his new role on the right of the front three but also roaming around all over the pitch. Of course, he should have scored from that chance early doors.
What about Brum? Certainly well organised and they put in a spirited performance. Zigic & Burn carried a goal threat at set pieces and Gray looked tricky when he came on. I don’t think they’re relegation candidates, Lee Clark is too good a manager for that. As mentioned already, Burke was excellent. I wonder what would have happened if we’d managed to nick him in the summer?
There you go, on reflection, a frustrating afternoon but four games into the McClaren era, we’re still unbeaten. Would love to get a result against QPR next week. Onwards and upwards!