Barnsley 1 Blues 1 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 11 March 2009 By Richard Barker
I'd not seen Blues' previous four performances - at Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, and then at home to Bristol City and Southampton - but understood that Palace was a bit better, Sheffield United was fairly hopeless and then the two home games were marginally better. Given that the last time I saw Blues was the debacle at Coventry, the performance at Barnsley was an improvement.

Certainly you couldn't fault Blues' effort or say that they weren't "up for it", which too many times this season they haven't been. They were more purposeful than the last few times I'd seen them too, as they had been in the last two home games, so I understand. In saying all of this, there was a frightening lack of quality, however.

Blues were hampered by injuries to a lot of key players, and Liam Ridgewell. Lee Bowyer's absence meant that the centre of the midfield lost its drive, and whilst Damien Johnson did well (before being taken off to avoid being sent off because of his running battle with Bobby Hassell), he's not the same kind of player in that position.

As I've said, Blues looked to be more purposeful and looked to be direct. Barnsley's defence was pretty woeful, so during the whole game Cameron Jerome, Carlos Costly and then Hameur Bouazza and Scott Sinclair all got in behind the defence on numerous occasions - this was where the quality was lacking, however. Too many times there were heavy touches to allow a defender or goalkeeper to ease Barnsley's fears. Invariably one of the above would do well with their run and movement to engineer themselves a position, but then their quality on the ball was lacking, both in finishing and in the final ball.

Blues were the better team overall, although Barnsley did step it up in the second half after a woeful first half. As is so often the case, Blues were their own worst enemy defensively, however. I actually felt that three of the back four, in Stephen Carr, Radhi Jaidi and Franck Queudrue stood up well to a lively Barnsley attack featuring Michael Mifsud, the vastly under-rated Martin Devaney and the expert in running down blind alleys, Jamal Campbell-Ryce. Then, however, you have Martin Taylor. In truth, he didn't do a lot wrong for much of the game and yes, he even scored. However, this was only after yet another cracking performance from Taylor & Taylor Clown School, established 2005.

Barnsley put a cross in from their right. The cross was about six yards from Maik The Clown's goal, but his big floppy feet and huge oversized gloves meant that he stayed rooted to his line. Martin The Clown was well positioned, however, with the ball dropping onto his green wigged head. Still, he managed to think that his green wig was larger than it was and he ducked under the ball. Mifsud couldn't believe his luck at the far post, brought the ball down and knocked it into the back of the net at the far post, whilst Martin the Clown stepped on a rake that flew up and hit him in the face and Maik the Clown squirted water from a yellow flower into Toby Tyke's face.

Genuinely I wish that I'd been quick enough with my phone to take a photo of the clowning duo immediately after the goal - it was laughable. They both stood there alongside one another in exactly the same stance, each of them with both of his hands on his head. I hope and pray that a photographer took the shot - I want it on my wall.

Maik the Clown was awful in the second half. His kicking is still shocking (why oh why oh why oh why can he not kick?), but he was in all sorts of trouble with crosses, particularly late on. He just seems completely unable to read the game - not always with crosses, but sometimes long balls heading into his area. Before the game, Simon Davey spoke about Barnsley's dossier on Blues and knowing their weaknesses. In the dressing room pre-match you can imagine him telling his players to target Taylor. "Which one?", they ask. "Both", he replies.

It certainly looked like Barnsley targetted Maik anyway, as they peppered him with crosses and balls across the face of the goal. Out of about twenty that he had to deal with, he handled about one efficiently. The rest of the time there was blind panic in his eyes as he hesitated on his line.

Yes, Martin then went and scored. Whoopee. The truth is it was one of those goals a lot of teams get just after conceding, when they suddenly pile forward and the opposition panic. Had Barnsley not scored, I very much doubt that Blues would have scored, so I'm loathed to say that the Taylor act cost us three points, as I don't think it necessarily did.

Both teams then pushed for a winner, but couldn't get one. There was still time for Lee Carsley to remind me how much he infuriates me with his free-kick philosophy. Literally seconds after Blues had scored from a Larsson free-kick, they were awarded one in virtually the same position. Larsson's delivery on the previous one had caused all sorts of problems for Barnsley leading to the goal. So, when Blues got the exact same free-kick again, rather than set up in a similar way and allow Larsson to take it, Carsley knocked the ball down the line for Sinclair to overhit a cross. Great.

Finally, a word on Carlos Costly, who worked hard and showed one or two decent touches. The fact remains that football is an entertainment industry, and Costly is entertaining. In some ways he's like Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry or Kaka, in that he makes people smile when he plays. The Costly Shuffle will be revered in the same way as the Cruyff Turn in years to come.

As I said at the start, I've seen much worse and I've seen much better. This was a standard, run-of-the-mill six out of ten performance. I'm not going to slate Blues for it and I'm not going to praise them for it. Really, for a team hoping to get promoted you should win at Barnsley, especially when they were as poor as they were here for 45 minutes. In saying that though, if you're a team hoping to get promoted you should really beat Ipswich at home or Charlton at home or Blackpool at home or win at Norwich. The fact that all of the top teams are continually failing really is a reflection on how poor this league is. The bonus for Blues is that they picked up a point in a remaining away game, whereas Wolves, Reading and Sheffield United all wasted a home game to earn theirs.