Saturday, 18 August 2012

We'll take the point...

I made the short trip up to St. Andrews today with much trepidation.  I have pondered over and over whether this current team would be able to ply their trade in the Championship, or were wholesale changes needed.  Today went some way to answering that question, and although in the main, things looked positive, it wasn't all rosy.

The stand out feature of our League One winning season was our defence, and it will be something that could go on to shape our season one way or the other.  With the back line facing players of a higher quality than before, I was interested to see how Morrison and Co. fared.  Having Cort fit for the game was a good bonus.  I had anticipated seeing a replacement, but I felt very reassured when I saw him warming up.  Little did I know at this point that his contribution was going to be about more than just his defensive abilities.  We defended well today, though I think our back four will have tougher days.  Neither team had much cutting edge going forward, but the Birmingham attackers definitely had the quieter afternoon.

Our general play was good.  We passed the ball around well, got into some great positions, and fired in some decent crosses.  The movement was good, and as already stated the defence were solid enough and seemed to be working well as a unit.  Unfortunately however we were poor in front of goal.  Both Wright-Phillips and Kermogant had chances to snatch a goal, but a rush of blood prevented them from getting off the mark.  Jackson also had chances, yet couldn't keep his cool enough to find the back of the net.

When the goal did come it was courtesy of a game of head tennis in the Birmingham City area.  The ball bounced off a couple of players and Cort stole in at the post and nodded it past Butland.  It wasn't exactly pretty, but it sent the away fans wild regardless.  It had been a long wait for the goal, though nobody could deny that it was well deserved.  We had dominated proceedings for long periods, and for all Lee Clark's pre-season waffle, Birmingham didn't look prepared for the match.  They looked short of fitness, and certainly didn't look like a team that finished 4th last season.

Birmingham's equaliser came courtesy of some tired legs.  Credit to Zigic, his strike was clean, but the boys at the back were struggling by this point after giving their all for 90 minutes.  I don't want to be harsh by saying that it was poor defending, it may have been, but I definitely feel that exhaustion had a major part to play.  Zigic was a handful the minute he was brought on.  It's the first time I've seen the big Serb in the flesh.  He really is a lump, but what a great weapon to have in your arsenal, not only can he put himself about, he can find the back of the net as well.

Overall I think we deserved to win the game.  We had the majority of play, created the best chances, and honestly I think that if we can play of a similar quality for the next 45 games, we should definitely be at least comfortably mid-table come the end of the season.  I do have a slight worry about our forward line however.  I'm hoping Kermo and Bradley just had an off day today, let's hope that's all it was, we are going to need plenty of goals this season, and if they aren't coming from our front two, we might find ourselves in a bit of scrap later on.

It would have been nice to walk away with three points from today's encounter, though I'm sure we would have taken a point if offered without a ball being kicked.  It's a testament to the team that there was disappointment that we failed to take all three.  Still, although we didn't pick up the win today, more performances of this type will definitely ensure we get some positive results.  I'm still full of trepidation when thinking about the season going forward, though I do feel a lot more relaxed after today's match.

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