Friday evening saw the first league meeting of Birmingham City vs West Bromwich Albion for 7 years and a crucial game for both teams for different reasons.
Blues v Albion will never be the fiercest Midlands derby and I don’t believe anyone has ever said it is either, however there’s nothing quite like getting one over your local rivals and kickstarting your season – something which would have been very much on the agenda for Monk and Co.
On paper Albion were the favourites going into this one and that’s really hard to argue with the squad they have at their disposal, but there’s something about Blues being the best underdog. Before today’s game I said I’d have taken the draw and I even predicted a 1-1 in my preview piece, but once again I’m let feeling perplexed as to how we haven’t come away with all three points.
I thought the international break would bring an end to this feeling of despair and Blues would finally get what they deserve out of a game of football – how wrong could I be? Very wrong, unfortunately.
Monk set up his team to be compact, battling and hard to break down. Whilst our opponents opted to play the ball out from the back like they were Brazil (right colours, but nowhere near that standard).
From minute one you could see the intensity from Blues was there – something we didn’t see from the QPR game. We were first to everything and didn’t give WBA a moment to breathe, making them struggle to string three passes together. We made life hell for their defence who couldn’t seem to get in the game and have the effect Darren Moore would have wanted.
20 minutes had gone and it had that Swansea City, Bolton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest…you get the point now feeling. Until a lovely lofted pass from Gary Gardner met the cushioned head of Lukas Jutkiewicz to set up Jota from close range. Total delirium, we scored a goal.
90 seconds later we were almost in wonderland. Kyle Bartley was deemed to handle the ball by referee Andy Madley (who had a cracking game I must say). Jota now had the chance to double his tally and Blues lead, but in typical Blues fashion it was too good to be true and his rather poor penalty was saved by Johnstone.
You got that little feeling we were going to end up regretting that golden opportunity and that’s exactly what happened. Kristian Pedersen gave Matt Phillips far too much room on the right hand side and even when he managed to get the ball off him, completely bottled his opportunity to clear the ball and allowed him to stroll through and toe poke it past Lee Camp (who arguably should have done better).
The second half was a carbon copy and more one way traffic, Blues being the far superior side and looking the most likely to get the next goal. Unfortunately it just wouldn’t fall for us even after creating a further four or five clear cut chances, but when your luck is out and you’re struggling to be clinical that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
So once again we come out of St Andrews bewildered as to how we haven’t got those first three points on the board which the performance deserved. In a parallel universe Blues would be on 12+ points not, but this is the real world and this is Blues – we never do it the easy way, do we?
Now we need to dust ourselves down, regroup and believe that Tuesdays fixture against Sheffield United really is our “Groundhog Day”.
Until then enjoy the weekend and Keep Right On!