Blues 1 Wolves 1 .. Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 20 November 2006
It was another game that Blues dominated but failed to take chances, and eventually it was always going to come back to haunt them. It did today, and so the 2,000 or so Wolves fans who failed to pack themselves into the away end left celebrating as if they'd won the Champions League.

Steve Bruce named a completely unchanged side (and substitutes) from that which saw off Barnsley a week previously. It was fitting that 48 hours after the sad passing away of Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas, Wolves - who played Puskas' Honved in a famous game not long after a Puskas-inspired Hungary side beat England 6-3 at Wembley - included some of their great names in their starting line-up. Back in those days it was England captain William 'Billy' Wright lining up in old gold and black, and nowadays they can call upon the likes of Lewis Gobern, Karl Henry, Charlie Mulgrew and Daniel Jones to don their famous bright orange shirts.

Blues started fairly slowly and Wolves looked bright enough in the early stages - though they never really tested Maik Taylor. Gradually Blues' being-much-better-ness began to show and they started to take control of the game. Cameron Jerome twice went close, once firing over following a flick-on by Rahdi Jaidi and once being foiled by the superb and far-too-good-for-Wolves Matt Murray in goal.

Blues took the lead on the half hour following neat work by Nicklas Bendtner and Gary McSheffrey. The two of them can cause some right damage when they link up properly… unfortunately though the majority of the time they seem to have a little private "I'm So Much Better Than You - Look What I Can Do!" battle going on between them. On this occasion though they did link up well, and Bendtner's header was controlled by McSheffrey who then hit a dipping drive over the despairing Murray.

Blues continued in the same vain for another ten minutes or so with Bendtner being denied by Murray, before Blues appeared to calm down and just play for half-time. Unfortunately after half-time they continued in the same vain, and played for full-time for 45 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the second half Blues were absolutely appalling and Wolves raised their game immeasurably, and the result was that it was an even contest. Bendtner and McSheffrey continued refusing to pass to each other whilst Jerome just got on with it and was unlucky on several occasions - Murray seemed to be his arch-nemesis. As usual Steve Bruce that Bendtner and McSheffrey weren't close enough to each other to annoy one another with McSheffrey stuck out on the left, so Jerome was again (unluckily) withdrawn and the two greedy little so-and-so's got a go up front together. (Excuse me knocking them - I'm seriously not. They're both fantastic footballers and we're a million times better with them both playing - if they helped one another and their team-mates out a little more though Blues would be better off for it.)

As Blues continued to create the odd chance but look fairly lacklustre it was blindingly obvious what would happen. To say "you could see Wolves getting a late equaliser" would be tantamount to saying "there's a big cricket tournament about to start on the other side of the world". The referee may as well have stopped the game after 75 minutes and declared the game as a 1-1 draw, as it was the most blatantly obvious result since the verdict of a certain trial in Baghdad last week. Everyone could have gone home earlier then.

So, Wolves scored in the 89th minute, but there was a bit of controversy in the build-up. Gary Breen appeared to elbow Seb Larsson, but referee Mark Halsey waved play on. Regardless of whether he believed it was a foul or not, I was under the impression that a game had to be stopped if there was a head injury. Despite Larsson lying on the ground and holding his head, Halsey also opted not to invoke this rule either, and Wolves won a corner. Gobern took it, Jay Bothroyd flicked it on and 58 year old Jody Craddock nodded the ball home from close range.

Blues woke up for the first time since 12.40pm again and McSheffrey had a goal disallowed before he wasted another great opportunity when well placed, and that was that - Blues had to settle for the point.

After the run Blues have been on, a draw isn't the end of the world - had someone offered you 16 out of 18 points after the Norwich game, you'd have snapped someone's hand, forearm, bicep, tricep and shoulder off for that. Blues are well and truly in touch at the right end of the table and, as I say, after the Norwich game you'd have more than taken that.

The annoying thing though is just how comfortable Blues were in the first half, and then their total non-performance in the second half. Too often there's a complete non-performance in the second half - what do they do at half-time? Have we replaced a slice of orange and a bottle of Lucozade Sport with a bargain bucket from KFC and a pint of Stella with a Drambuie chaser? What happens at half-time?

Not conceding goals lately has meant Blues have been scoring once and winning - fair enough. You can't guarantee keeping a clean sheet all the time though, and when you get the opportunity against a dreadful side such as Wolves (and they were dreadful…) to capitalise and score 3, 4 or even 5, you have to take those and not ease off settling for 1-0. I've said it 6,409,771 times; watch Arsenal or Manchester United - the best way to defend a 1-0 lead is to make it a 2-0 lead. This wasn't an away game in which Blues were completely up against it, nicked a goal and had to hold on for their lives - the chances were there and the opportunity was there to win comfortably, bad refereeing decision or no bad refereeing decision. Don't let Mark Halsey's poor decision overshadow Blues' failings today - no one would be mentioning it if Blues had been home and dry by the 89th minute as they should have been.

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