|Forssell 34, Morrison 41||Cameron 6, Cort 75|
Blues will be disappointed, as once again, in a game they should be expected to win, that could have proved crucial, the players simply lacked the desire and appetite to see off inferior opposition.
With Stan Lazaridis making a remarkable recovery from the injury sustained against Manchester United, the Australian winger was restored to the starting eleven at the expense of the departing Bryan Hughes. Hughes, like Tommy Mooney before him, perhaps highlighting that it is a foolish man that crosses Steve Bruce. In truth, with Hughes failing to commit his future to the club following the offer of a very reasonable-in-length three year contract, it was probably the correct decision. Why pick players who will be leaving in the summer?
The game started as fast and furiously as some of the Nationwide encounters in the past between these two fierce rivals. Whilst not a shadow on the Blues-Villa rivalry, there is no love lost between these two either - why else would we be kicking off at midday on a sunday?
It was relegation-haunted Wolves who took the lead after just 6 minutes. Blues, who had started terribly - as they so often do - failed to deal with a Wolves free-kick, leaving Colin Cameron to play a neat one-two with Henri Camara, before curling an excellent effort round Maik Taylor and into the far corner.
Normally a goal against kick starts Blues, but they were still labouring in the late-season sunshine. For the first 20 minutes, it was pretty much Damien Johnson against Wolverhampton Wanderers. When not occupying his usual wide right berth, he was making runs through the middle, covering at right-back, and generally working harder than the rest of his team-mates combined.
When Blues finally did begin to get themselves into the game, there was no surprise that Lazaridis was proving to be a threat. Indeed, after some neat work by the winger, Stephen Clemence turned neatly in the area, and as a result was left with the simple task of clipping the ball into the net past the already committed Paul Jones. Clemence fired wide though.
Wolves still looked threatening at the other end. Carl Cort's only threat was to Kenny Cunningham and Matty Upson, as the former Newcastle striker committed foul after foul. His strike partner, Camara, however was a genuine threat with his pace and skills. When running at defenders, he resembles Thierry Henry. Luckily, his finishing bares fewer similarities to the great Arsenal forward. If he could sort that out, he'd be a hell of a player. (I'm sure I wrote that in the report from Molineux too - why doesn't he listen?)
Blues were back on level terms after 34 minutes, when Clinton Morrison flicked the ball on (taking a blow to the back at the same time) and Mikael Forssell was on hand to round Jones and slot the ball home. It sounds simple, but the Finn did it with such ease and simplicity that a chance that Morrison or Camara would have blown looked like a tap-in.
Minutes later, and Blues took the lead. This time Forssell played an excellent through ball to Morrison who was clearly onside as the Wolves full-backs thought they'd stop ten yards deeper than their centre halves. Morrison took a touch, advanced on Jones, and knocked the ball home comfortably to make it two in two games. Well, that's the statistic we'll be hearing for the next week anyway. I still make it four in twenty-eight. And what a pity - we could have seen far more of his choreographed dance routines if he could just finish better.
There was still time for Camara to test the guy in the twelfth row of the Tilton Road End and Robbie Savage to hit a post with a free-kick before half-time. When the interval came, despite an awful start, Blues had got out of jail, gone in ahead, and should have come out looking to wrap up the points.
Actually, Blues did have a bit of a go at the start of the second half, with Forssell and Morrison both going close, but for a deflection and a block respectively. After this though, Blues decided to ease off the gas, mess around, and think they'd done enough. This went on for 20 minutes, and whilst Wolves didn't threaten, I should suspect that every single person in the ground knew what was coming - a Wolves equaliser.
Sure enough, with 15 minutes to go, Savage (dubiously) fouled Camara some 30 yards from goal. After Johnson and Ioan Ganea spent literally about a minute of trying to move each other out of the way at the end of the wall (note that over an hour later, it was still Johnson doing everything to prevent a shot going in), Mark Kennedy drove a low shot towards goal. Maik Taylor got down to the ball, but it was hit with such pace and through so many bodies that he was unable to hold onto the ball. The way things had been going, it was a certainty that it would be a Wolves player that reacted quickest, and indeed it was, with Cort clipping the ball home from close range as the Blues defenders watched the ball rebound off Taylor.
Both teams wanted the three points for very different reasons, and so threw everything at one another for the remainder of the game, which made for some good entertainment. Hughes played like a man who was leaving the club (perhaps to boyhood heroes Everton - with David Moyes sat in the Main Stand), even receiving one or two boos after his contract refusal. This was capped off by a hopeless volley over the bar when well placed. Ganea then had a header saved by Maik Taylor, before at the death, in a two-on-one break, Morrison slid a fine ball into the path of substitute Stern John, who obviously forgetting his 'Super Sub' tag, passed the ball back into Jones' hands.
With that, I feel sure, went any last hope of seeing European football at St Andrews next season, but given it is only the club's second season in the top flight, that shouldn't be seen as too much of a disappointement. What should, however, is the Blues team lacking the bottle and the fight in a home game that they should have won. This smacked of Sunderland and Leicester before it. In fairness, Wolves looked alright going forwards, but at the back they were atrocious, and in midfield, Paul Ince was an absolute passenger, and Cameron was allowed to run the show.
There is evidently something wrong, as these games haven't been 'nothing games' for Blues, but that is how they have played them. Even here today, they had still managed to take a 2-1 lead into the break, despite such a lacklustre display, and should have come out for the second half like the top teams do, and carried on looking for goals, rather than giving it 10 minutes, then sitting back. Blues will never, ever be able to sit on a one goal lead - they're not good enough - yet they always try to do it. Wolves this week, Charlton last week, Manchester United the week before that. Whether the fault lies with the management staff (which I doubt - I'm sure they'd rather score another to make things comfortable) or with the mindsets of the players, I don't know, but it has to be rectified by next season, otherwise we may be looking over our shoulders rather than up at Liverpool and Newcastle. This season itself is in serious danger of petering out, with a bottom half of the table finish a real possibility.
|Birmingham C.||2 ||Wolves||2|
| ||Cameron 6|
Sunday 25th April 2004
| || Savage (28)||unsporting behaviour |