Yes, today was indeed the day when I.P.Freely had his first Bovril of this new football season. It happened at half time. Sadly, only around 250 people were there to witness this monumental event, but I’m sure in years to come there will be many thousand to claim ‘I was there’.
As I mention, the crowd tonight was most disappointing. I feel the ordinary fan is becoming disenchanted with Blues’ Reserves and their continued unwillingness to wear Sockatyes. Having spent their £7.50 on these articles, people just don’t think the players are pulling their weight and getting behind Karren’s Club. Brucie was in the crowd, though, wearing a simple costume – a mixture of jeans, jacket and open necked shirt. I saw Brucie on the way in and he gave me a very knowing look. I couldn’t think why this should be until I saw the teamsheet which included Lazaridis and Izzett – the very two players we’ve all been saying need a few reserve games before being chucked back into the first team a la Middlesbrough Debacle. They read these messageboards, I tell you!
Blues fielded quite an experienced side. Apart from the two mentioned, there was also Tebily, Taylor, Clemence and Vaesen. Good to see some joined-up thinking going on and the reserves being used as an adjunct to the first team, rather than a dumping ground. The side was switched around all over the place to accommodate the first teamers but that’s not really the point, is it? the point is they were getting some match practice into their legs. Stan played as a makeshift striker (yes, Stan, who as far as I can remember has only ever scored two goals for Blues, albeit one of ‘em at Vile Park!) Kilkenny spent the first half marooned out on the right wing, making space in the middle for Izzett.
The first incident of note was Tebs being booked after two minutes for a rash challenge. It must have been worse than it looked to me because shortly after the tackle, the police helicopter from Birmingham Airport swooped over the ground, clearly referee Miss A.E Rayner felt Tebily’s imposing presence necessitated the calling in of Air Cover. A sort of Black Hawk Down situation looked imminent, but then the chopper departed. This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Miss Rayner in action – last time was when Blues played Blackburn Reserves early in the Mark Hughes Era and Blackburn kicked Kilkenny to bits in front of a delightfully oblivious Miss Rayner. Tonight, though, she was a lot more alert, possibly to the extent of being a mite over fussy.
After 14 minutes, Wigan’s Josip Skoko joined Tebs in the book, having just flattened Kilkenny. Skoko looks quite a decent player, albeit a little prone to making rash challenges. I couldn’t stop thinking of a cult 1960s children’s TV programme called Zocko. Anyone remember that?
Blues were pretty woeful in the first half, passes were going astray and they persisted in shunting high balls up to the lightweight strike pair of Till and Lazaridis. Despite this, Blues created the three best chances of the half, with Laz (twice) and Tebily having clear shots on goal, all of which troubled Birmingham Airport control tower a lot more than they did Croll, the dodgy Wigan keeper.
25 minutes Bertschin sprinted off down the tunnel to the dressing rooms. It’s good to know that Birmingham’s Balti restaurants are back to form, following the tornado. He seemed a lot more chipper when he returned and treated us to some pearls of wisdom shoutedfrom the touchline such as “keep the ball, feckin’ pass it to each other”. One could see the assorted professionals and Internationals on the pitch thinking “Crikey, what a good idea! I wish I’d thought of that!”
The highlights of the first half for me were Oji, who was having a very assured game, looking quick, alert and composed on the ball. Also, I saw a couple of Arctic Terns fly over the ground. Few people realise this, but one of the very few inland colonies of Arctic Terns live at Kingsbury Water Park, about 12 miles from Solihull. I suppose if your genes have bred you to traverse great expanses of the North Atlantic, a short evening flight from Kingsbury to Solihull is sod all, is it?
The lowlights of the first half were the hoofball being deployed and the abject form af Mat Sadler, who looked like he couldn’t trap a bag of cement, failed to find anyone with a pass and spent most of the half blaming his team mates for all his mistakes. For the record, he was the same in the second half.
Towards the end of the first half, Nico was forced into making a good save, coming off his line quickly to smother a break from Wigan’s Sam Litchfield.
Half Time 0-0 and the Bovril.
They seem to have narrowed the pitch by two or three yards at Solihull. this is making games far tighter and more frenetic. Good for the fitness but not so clever for the technique. In the second half, Blues decided to try and adapt to this by moving Kilkenny into central midfield. Kilkenny’s capable of creating some space and time in a crowded, frantic, midfield. And he did. To accommodate Kilkenny, Bugsy Birley was swiched from right wing to left and Clemence went out onto the left wing.
Having KK in the centre changed the way Blues played and the hoofball stopped. Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of streams of crosses coming in from the wings to the lightweight Till and Lazaridis up against a pair of six foot centre halves. I despair sometimes.
Nico had to make another good save early in the second half, similar to the one he made at the end of the first. He looked sharp and confident.
As the game progressed, Izzett was growing in influence in central midfield, with him and Kilkenny beginning to run the show. This game was exactly what Izzett’s been needing for weeks – 90 minutes of hard running, away from the pressure of tring to get fit coming on a s a first team sub. Why has it taken so long to organise this?
62 minutes and Blues went ahead. A fine through ball from (I think) Kilkenny split the defence. Peter Till ran onto it, drew the keeper in a one-on-one and calmly bslid the ball home. Apologies for the confusion over Kilkenny – it may have been Izzett or even Birley but my view was obstructed.
Kilkenny was having an increasing influence on the game until Wigan’s Phil Edwards stopped a typical surging run by deploying the simple expediend of kicking him in the knackers. Comical to see, but gained him a booking!
72 minutes and Howland replaced Clemence. 85 minutes and Wright replaced Stan.
After 86 minutes, Wigan were awarded a penalty following a handball by Oji. Blues protested that Oji had been pushed into the ball and was falling from the push when the ball hit his hand, but to no avail. Wigan’s Ryan Taylor took the penalty very well and so the game finished 1-1.
Got in the car to hear the Vile were already 2-0 down to Wet Spam. Not liking either team much, the news pretty much left me cold. Came home, had a glass of Fitou and typed this. I hope you like it! Cheerio.
Blues: Vaesen, Tebily, Sadler, Oji, Martin Taylor, Izzett, Birley, Kilkenny, Till, Clemence, Lazaridis. Subs: Doyle, Painter, Howland, Alsop, Wright.
Wigan: Croll, Wright, McMillan, Edwards, Jackson, Stephan, Taylor, Skoko, Litchfield, Hazeldine, Waterhouse. Subs: Middleton, Saunders, Owens, Roberts, Smith.