Blues 1 Norwich City 1 .. Match Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 29 November 2004

It was another tale of two halves for Blues, after last week's 3-3 draw at Blackburn. Blues were in control in the first half, but then simply didn't perform in the second and Norwich possibly could have gone on to win the game.

With Julian Gray and Stan Lazaridis both ruled out through illness and injury respectively, Steve Bruce was left with no alternative but to play left-back Jamie Clapham at left-back. Thank God for that. Elsewhere, Emile Heskey returned to the side to partner Clinton Morrison up front, meaning David Dunn moved to the left and Jesper Gronkjaer was on the bench. All this meant that Blues were actually playing 4-4-2. Thank God for that too. Damien Johnson was the only Blues player in the eleven who had actually been at the club when the two sides last met just 30 months ago in Cardiff, where he was an unused substitute. Imagine that now?! Damien Johnson an unused substitute!?

Blues started fairly well, but it was equally apparent that Norwich weren't at it at all. I've been fairly impressed when I've seen them this season, but they just never got going. Heskey and Morrison were linking well early on, and it was the two who combined to open the scoring after 9 minutes.

Darren Anderton's cross was slightly behind Heskey who still managed to get an excellent header on goal. The effort beat Rob Green, but rebounded off the crossbar, straight to Morrison who tucked it away with a close range header himself. Morrison deserved his goal for his overall performance in the game, which was one of his best displays in a Blues shirt.

Blues continued to dominate for the rest of the first half with Morrison again twice going close, only to be denied by Green. Heskey was proving to be more than a handful for the lightweight Norwich backline, and Blues were putting together some good football. Norwich's only real moment came when Darren Huckerby fired well wide after a breakaway following a clear foul on Heskey that Graham Poll attempted to play advantage on.

At half-time Blues had to replace Mario Melchiot who it is understood only passed a late fitness test just before kick-off. Jack of All Trades (and Master of None...) Damien Johnson moved to right-back, with Gronkjaer coming on to play on the right-hand flank. It was another disappointing home performance from the Dane, who seems to save up better displays away from home. Whether this has anything to do with their being fewer Blues fans away from home and those being there being more willing to back him, I'm not sure, but it's looks like he's scared to death at St Andrews these days - maybe rightfully so.

Norwich also brought on Leon McKenzie who probably was the catalyst to their comeback. That I'm saying that about someone who 12 months ago was hardly setting Division Two alight with Peterbrough United must surely be a bit of a concern. Still, he did.

Blues were poor in the second half, reverting to their dropping so deep it's not true tactic. One of the key components to their good first half display was the fact that the likes of Dunn, Anderton and Johnson were all close to the forwards, and linking up well. On several occasions in the first half, both Dunn and Johnson got in behind the Norwich defence and ahead of Heskey and Morrison. There was no chance in the second half. At one point Morrison charged down a clearance for a Norwich throw-in deep in their half. As he set himself to try and pen them in, he turned to see that he had no teammate within about 40 yards of him, and had to wave his arms frantically to get any support.

Anyway, Heskey went close for Blues, and Anderton stung Green's palms with a free-kick, but Norwich got themselves into it and equalised 20 minutes into the second half. Maik Taylor continued his own personal disappointing season with a flap at a cross, which he failed miserably to clear it. When the ball was played back across the face of the goal, Taylor hadn't positioned himself properly, and Huckerby beat him at his near post to send the impressive travelling support wild.

Norwich were on top now, and Huckerby and McKenzie both went close, before Blues mustered the slightest of pushes late on to try and sneak a win, without really creating anything.

It's getting to the point now where questions probably have to be asked of coaching and/or management. The worst thing is that Blues are showing signs on occasions (first half today, first half against Blackburn, second halves against Bolton, Man Utd and Newcastle) of being able to produce some really good football. Perhaps things would be a little easier to understand if they were just rubbish all the time. However, they're just not performing consistently from week to week, and are not even performing consistently half to half.

Pundits and other managers up and down the country are turning around week after week and saying 'Well, Birmingham bought some quality players in the summer, so I can't quite understand why they're struggling', and I suspect that the fans think the same - especially given the fact that there are signs that the football looks good. If everyone everywhere is saying these things though, then surely someone at the club should recognise it and act on it.

I'm not for one second suggesting drastic measures, but you have to ask yourself how we're just about the only club in the Premiership I suspect with just two guys responsible for the first team, in Bruce and Eric Black. Should there not be one or two more coaches? Or something? Someone must know what's going on that's resulting in it just not quite happening this season.

Not so long ago, after games against Manchester United and Newcastle, people turned round and said 'Now we'll get the season started... Palace, Everton and Norwich at home... Southampton and Blackburn away...' and that optimism was clearly ill-founded. In those five games Blues have picked up 3 points. The only game in the last six that people expected us to get beat was the one we won at Anfield.

We're no longer in the 'start to the season' territory, we're well and truly into the season, and something has to be done to get Blues playing properly a lot more regularly, otherwise we could be sat here in March saying exactly the same things again, and they'll be a lot more vital then.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Taylor - At fault for another goal.

Melchiot - Clearly not fit, so not usual self.

Clapham - Far from great, but the team just looked more balanced.

Upson - Reasonably composed.

Cunningham - Again, did reasonably well.

Johnson - Did ok first half, and then did ok against Huckerby in the second.

Dunn - Had a fair bit of joy first half, but seemed to have stopped in the dressing room for the second.

Savage - Just doesn't seem at it anymore.

Anderton - Along with the front two, Blues' best performer.

Morrison - Excellent full return and hopefully can kick-start his career.

Heskey - Excellent display of pace and power.

SUBS:
Gronkjaer - Struggling.

Clemence - Couldn't get into the game.

Yorke - Ditto Clemence.

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