Transfer deadline day and there was a new signing in town, Jerome Sinclair on loan for the remainder of the season from an ex-club of Zola’s – Watford and optimism from some and nerves from others was the mindset from fans going into Blues’ game against Reading at St. Andrews on Tuesday night with Gianfranco Zola still looking for that first elusive win which still didn’t come!
Blues started the game again with a 4-3-3 formation and Reading with a 3-4-1-2, Blues worked hard in the first half starting well and creating some early chances, pressing the Royals with their creative passes and looked promising, as if they could score early on. But nothing came of the chances Blues had and Reading then had a minor period of the ball between 12-20 minutes. Lukas Jutkiewitz seemed sharp on the half turn after receiving some short passes from fairly new signing Kerim Frei, who looked the sharpest, most threatening player in the home side’s line-up but still, Zola’s team couldn’t find a way in. Blues were winning the second ball all the while and whenever the men in blue attacked, Reading always managed to win the ball back and put Blues on tender hooks, waiting for another spell on the ball to possibly ignite a potential opening. The midfield was not organised, the three didn’t work and David Davis who had a good game against Norwich on Saturday, failed to perform, especially in the first 45 minutes of the game tonight. The two other players in the midfield alongside Davis, Craig Gardner and Stephen Gleeson were also disorganised and all three of the middlemen were chasing every single loose ball which allowed Reading to spread out-wide and come ever so near to breaking the deadlock.
Defensively, Blues looked shaky – quite cautious not knowing where to pass the ball, panic stations go, with Ryan Shotton giving away sloppy passes and making schoolboy errors. Something had to be changed and he was subbed off ready for the second half where club captain Michael Morrison was Ryan’s replacement.
Albeit Blues again started the second half well. Kerim Frei was tenacious and looked as if he was the only player who was going to score or make something happen for Blues in the game for Gianfranco’s men. Duels in the middle of the park were key to the way we played under former manager Gary Rowett, but now duels on the rings of the pitch out-wide were now the key. During the second half, Reading got into the game more, living it up to the expectation of being third in the league table. Jaap Stam’s team pretty much won every duel they faced and dominated the rest of the game from about 60 minutes, capitalising on Blues’s loose balls and failed attacks. It was at this point where there was zero lack of ideas, creativity and instinct from Zola’s men what so ever.
Reading grew rapidly into the game and poor passes in the middle from David Davis gave the visitors the opportunity to break, which they did and scored in the 77’ minute through Jon Swift. The Chelsea loanee scoring the goal from very close range, tapping the ball home from a pass across the box from Roy Beerens. The away side now, destroying any chances of Blues giving Gianfranco that first win he is so, so desperately searching for. Bluenose himself Craig Gardner did have a striking chance, blasting the ball at Reading goalkeeper Ali-al-Habsi which nearly levelled the match, but there still seems to be that certain something missing for Zola and his players. Potentially for Birmingham, it seems as if January could well have been that season defining month… What next?
Birmingham City – GK; Kuszczak , RB; Cogley , CB; Shotton , CB; Morrison , LB; Grounds
CM; Gleeson , CM; Gardner , CM; Davis
LW; Adams , ST; Jutkiewitz , RW; Frei
Reading – GK; Al-Habsi , CB; Blackett , CB; Moore , CB; Gunter
Midfield; Kelly , Evans , Williams , Obita , Swift
RS; McCleary , LS; Beerens
Possession – Blues; 40.7% , Reading; 59.3%
Shots – Blues; 18 , Reading; 7
Shots on target – Blues; 3 , Reading; 2
Corners – Blues; 2 , Reading; 3
Fouls – Blues; 14 , Reading; 13