“Gallagher looked threatening all game, until he was unjustly sent off for two yellow cards. The first of the pair being awarded for diving, after Ruiter, Sunderland’s keeper, tried to give him a warm Christmas hug to the face with the palms of his hands”
Well, well, well… who’d have thought a draw would be something to celebrate? A draw against a fellow relegation contender, no less. But hey, we’ve got to revel in our little successes where we can!
In all honesty, the scoreline doesn’t reflect the game. I hate it when people say that, as it just sounds like an excuse, however in this instance it seems appropriate. The first 45 minutes against Sunderland were without doubt the best of the season and our overall performance was arguably the best we’ve seen since Cardiff at home.
Going forward, we looked dangerous, menacing and at times Boga and Jota were the spearhead of a whirlwind attack. Our downfall came, as it so often does, in our ability to track back. We have sorely missed Colin but he, along with our midfield, need to be more vigilant when it comes to opposition counter attacks. Blues were caught sleeping on a Sunderland breakaway and suffered the consequences.
That being said, although we didn’t get the full three points we so desperately need right now, it’s definitely a case of 2 points we missed out on rather than 1 point we struggled to earn. There were numerous positives to take away from the game and maybe even lift the Christmas spirits of Blues fans as we head into the busy festive schedule.
So, what were the positives? Well the most obvious one for me was the arrival of Jota. As many of you are aware, I’m not Jota’s biggest fan and have been quite vocal in my disappointment. However it seems St Nick’s elves have sprinkled some dust on him and the magic of Christmas has raised his game to the £6 million level that we paid for. Jota absolutely ran Sunderland ragged and his link up play with Maxime Colin was very encouraging. He had a spring in his step from the first whistle and looked determined to show his worth. Perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable playing ahead of Nsue and needed a bit of Colin’s familiarity to get him going? Or maybe he was just frustrated at seeing Emilio persistently run past him in an effort to make himself a winger. Whatever the reason, here’s hoping it’s a sign of a renewed Jota.
Another huge positive was the emergence of the Gallagher of Seasons Past. Sam is another player I, along with many other Bluenoses, have been particularly critical of. His problems haven’t been completely borne of his own creation though, since Cotterill insisted on playing him out of position for so long. Anyone that has seen the fan confrontation video from a couple of weeks ago, knows Sam was pretty nonplussed about being played out wide, so it’s great to see him up front for the second week in a row. It’s worth noting that it is also his second goal in two games. Coincidence?
Gallagher looked threatening all game, until he was unjustly sent off for two yellow cards. The first of the pair being awarded for diving, after Ruiter, Sunderland’s keeper, tried to give him a warm Christmas hug to the face with the palms of his hands. The second yellow came after the ref decided to ignore a couple of appalling challenges on Jota but punish a nothing tackle by Sam. Hopefully Oliver Langford has sent off his request to Santa for new glasses in time as he sorely needs them before his next officiating duties.
The silver lining of the boys finding themselves down to ten men early in the second half is that they didn’t collapse. The Blues kept calm and stuck to a new revised game plan of protecting the point. Cotterill made a couple of key substitutions, replacing flair players with the typically more defensively solid Davis and Maghoma, and the lads switched to a 4-4-1 bus parking formation. We’ve seen Birmingham City drop their heads and being to play the blame game so often this season, it was great to see them buck that trend today.
All in all, the boys looked pumped for the first game of the Christmas period. As fans, we expect effort. We know that we won’t win every game and we know there will be off days. We’re realistic about our club and understand our current position and the challenges the players, manager and board face. However, these challenges sit a lot easier in the stomach when the team are visibly putting a shift in on the pitch. Almost every fan has come to terms with the fact that League One is beckoning and it is probably largely due to behind the scenes politics. However if Saturday’s game is a signal of intention, then maybe there is hope. Maybe this is the start of better things to come. Maybe this the first small step on the road to safety. Maybe there IS a Father Christmas!
Is it over the top to suggest that there is light at the end of the stadium? Probably, it’s only a 1 – 1 draw against a terrible team after all; but if you can’t dream at this time of year, when can you? I for one will be praying to the little baby Jesus, the Ancient Egyptian God Horus and any number of Pagan deities that this is the first step on a glorious road to recovery.
By Mark Watson