After a promising start, some abysmal defending gifted Birmingham City a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest. Martin Valentine offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
It’s a beautiful day at least. Shame we go into the game with Forest’s promotion hopes looking like the paths over Lady Bay Bridge and up Trentside — slippy underfoot and you can’t be certain of anything as you are frightened of falling over.
The players have looked so nervous and frightened of late — are their heads being filled with too much negativity? Too much defensive worry about the opposition, rather than focusing on your own game?
I have a wise friend who almost always calls it early, and calls it right. So I listen when he says he reckons Pearce the manager is on his way out.
Forest have a recent tradition of first game after Christmas sackings. Is this going to be another one?
The fact that people are — slowly, seemingly inexorably — starting to talk that way is surely significant.
Overheard on the way in: “If they lose today I think that’s me done for this season.”
The ref is card happy — 24 yellows and one red in his last five games.
Add that all up and the omens are starting to look rather ominous.
But we start off playing 4-4-2, keeping the ball on the floor and putting ourselves about with the kind of pace, power and purpose we haven’t witnessed in quite a while.
As a result the first 15 minutes are something to behold — we play like a football team rather than a bunch who’ve just met.
Britt looks like he has something to prove. They all do.
It’s ridiculously open though — like both teams are practicing for the FA Cup next week.
But — just as the crowd are getting behind the team — you can also hear the mutterings of discontent too, whenever there’s a misplaced pass. Us fans are just as much on edge as the players seem to have been of late.
Twenty minutes in, and this is the best we’ve played in ages.
Moussi comes out to warm up a minute later and gets a solid round of applause from the home crowd. Nice and deserved for a top bloke.
Still the rumblings of discontent continue for a misplaced pass…
On 32 we finally start to deliver on the early promise with a great move — good work by a revitalised Britt, a crazy set of deflections from a Lansbury shot, followed by a great corner headed as close to wide as it’s possible to get.
And then Lansbury gets booked. No surprise there. And then they score from the free-kick, their first shot on target.
The guy three seats away shouts “typical” — and it really is isn’t it? There, in three minutes, is our season so far.
And then they score again. Same bloke. Same place. Second blue smoke bomb let off.
And from playing the best football we’ve played in ages for half an hour, we’re 2-0 down. And that really does sum up our season.
And then normal service is resumed, and we go back to playing well again.
This is horrible.
Birmingham fans start chanting “you’re getting sacked in the morning” to Pearce as Antonio gets fouled for the millionth time again (without getting a free kick), as Fox gives the ball away for the millionth time again…
And even though we’ve been positive and creative you can hear the sound of fans clearing their throats ready for a hearty half-time boo.
And then they score a third. Four shots, three goals. Incredible.
Back to normal service. We’re doing all the attacking, Tesche hits the post from 25 yards and the ball rebounds to safety.
Half-time. Thank God. That must go down as the oddest half of football I’ve seen in ages.
Difficult to see what happened for the three goals, as I’m up in the Trent End and they were all at the other end.
At least we can go home and watch it again on Sky+. Or, as my friend Rowan put it on the half-time whistle: “We could all go home now and watch the second-half indoors, in the warm, and turn it off whenever we want.”
That’s starting to look like a promising option, as the cold starts to eat through my three pairs of socks, extra long johns, two shirts, one hoodie, one very thick coat, hat, scarf and gloves…
Second-half starts. Pato misses an absolute sitter that even I would score, and I’m twice his age. Sigh.
Fifty minutes and a concerted effort by the Trent End to get singing is met by an equally concerted effort by Forest to miss a great chance, see another blocked on the line and then send a free header from the resulting corner miles wide. But still we are the better team by a mile.
Of course Birmingham are in no rush to do anything…
And let’s be honest, they’re rubbish. It’s a travesty they are winning 3-0 against a squad like ours. But you have to ask why they are so comfortable against us, despite being so obviously second rate.
Now 65 gone. At least the ref is now making things interesting by making a series of crowd-infuriating, bafflingly wrong decisions.
Antonio is fouled, again. This time the home fans have had enough of the ref and start a spontaneous wave of ironic cheering. The Birmingham fans join in. We’re still playing better than we have in ages, still missing easy chances, and still we are losing.
With 73 gone. Forest are starting to go long ball and, just as it hasn’t worked for so many other games, it doesn’t really work here either. “Get it down” becomes a familiar sound, only interrupted by ironic applause for Danny Fox being taken off. He’s had a shocking game, but never nice to hear your fellow fans react like that.
Lars is on to make what is now a very attacking line up. But you know we’re not going to score even if Birmingham decided to go home now.
Which, with 15 minutes to go, lots of home fans are starting to do.
What is it with us and refs recently? Birmingham are fouling our lads like crazy, but we continue to get nothing. Tesche — who has been outstanding — gets cropped in the centre circle and they nearly score from the loose ball.
Antonio gets fouled — yet again— nothing. But the ref can’t wait to blow up when he brushes against one of theirs.
Just five minutes left and Rowan leaves. He never leaves early. He misses the Moooouuussse coming on. Big clap from the Trent End.
More Birmingham time wasting. Why bother? They’re not going to lose, and we would all like to go home and be put out of our misery please.
Antonio gets man of the match — presumably awarded by someone who wasn’t aware that Tesche, Fryatt and Lansbury were playing. He did ok but was trying too hard to win the game on his own.
And just when we thought we were going to go home thoroughly miserable, we just have to go and ruin it by scoring… And what a good goal it was too — incisive move finished by a great far post header by Assombalonga, who’s done well today.
Cue the obligatory “we’re gonna win 4-3” chant from the Trent End — at least those of us still here.
And that’s it. Half-hearted boos from a few, a sense of rather hopeless resignation from the rest of us.
Fourteen points from 17 games now. Relegation form. Couldn’t we just play badly and scrape a win?
I’ve been critical of the manager’s (lack of) tactics of late. Nothing to complain about here — good players in the right positions playing the right formation with the right application.
And that didn’t work either.
Maybe we’re just cursed. Because, if we don’t go up this year, Financial Fair Play is going to kill us next year.
Happy New Year everyone.
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