After dominating possession during the first half, we should have been going 1-0 up at half time. Antonio Valencia, who put in another good performance, played in a beautiful ball to Wayne Rooney. He brought it down but instead of lifting it over Joe “City reject” Hart, he drilled it in to him.
With just a few minutes to play in the half, the ball came in to Jerome in the box, who controlled it with his hand. It was clear as day to every single person in the away end behind the goal, and was later highlighted on MOTD, but was not seen by the two men that mattered, the linesman and the referee. A corner was awarded and Birmingham scored from it. 1-0 Brum and we had a lot of work to do. Again.
Now yesterday was a day that started fairly well for me. Driving through Dunham, that looked pretty bloody beautiful with all the snow, like something off a Christmas card, and feeling grateful that our game was still on. A postponement would have resulted with a midweek match, meaning United would have two games to play in one week, and I would have to get my arse down to Birmingham on a miserable Wednesday evening, not something I fancied in place of a lazy Saturday evening kick-off. With every other Premiership game but one called off, I felt like someone was on my side.
After parking the car and walking up to the ground, an old married couple started chatting to us. “You know there’s only one City, and that’s Birmingham City, not that lot near you!” which raised a smile. We exchanged pleasantries for a while, with the lady telling us the last time they’d gone on a run like this was 1907 or something, before reminiscing of a time when they beat us 5-1 in the 1970’s. As we parted ways, trudging off in the snow, the fella patted me on the back, telling us he hoped we won the league this season.
We then got in to the away end were confronted with portaloos. What the fuck is that all about? I’ve never been to St. Andrews before and heard it was a shit hole. But portaloos? Fucking tramps. Got on to the concourse, had a pint and a sing song. Bumped in to a friend of mine who was with Danny Welbeck’s brother, we had a chat (and I carefully steered clear of talking about the Leeds game…) then sung a bit more. My mate checked his phone and news came through that Arsenal had drew.
The day had been set up to go well. Maybe we were going to get the reaction we’d been hoping for.
But apparently I’d had all the good luck I was going to get for the day. The match was fine, the atmosphere with the away fans was good, as always, and the result was OK. Had we gone in a goal up at half-time instead of a goal down, maybe we could have gone on to do something special. We had easily been the better side and if we had made the most of that, things could have been different. But we didn’t and Birmingham played with a lot more confidence in the second half whilst we started to look nervous and desperate.
With just over an hour played we levelled the score after a great ball in from Patrice Evra. With Rooney running back to the half-way line with the ball and the away end going mad, it took a while to notice the ref in deep discussion with the linesman. Offside? Never. There was a great sense of relief when the referee blew his whistle and ran to the centre circle. Goal given.
MOTD showed clearly that the goal was an own-goal, so any talk of offside was irrelevant. MOTD also showed that Rooney wasn’t offside anyway, so any arguments off “interfering with play” were redundant also. Alex McLeish acknowledged this and that the right decision had been made.
A wrong decision had been made with six minutes to play though (or twelve minutes, depending on how you look at it), when Darren Fletcher was sent off. He hadn’t enjoyed his best game in a United shirt but was his usual hard working self. The first yellow came for going through the back of Lee Bowyer. It was nothing less than that racist cunt deserves but it was certainly a booking. The second booking was ridiculous though. With Jerome just past the halfway line, Fletcher stretched out a leg to win the ball. He clearly caught the player though but there was no sign of intent or maliciousness. There was no hesitation from the referee though, who almost seemed too eager to pull out that second yellow and send our man off.
When six minutes of injury time was announced, you again had to wonder what the officials were thinking about. There had only been three substitutions all game and no notable injuries. I can only assume the chants of “Fergie time” initiated by the home fans were ironic. Why on earth would a team who were playing away from home with ten men want six minutes of added time? Bizarre.
As for other observations, it was good to see Mame Diouf get his début. The manager wants to know if he’s worth putting in the European squad (probably more worthwhile than Owen Hargreaves, who was included for the squad for the group stages!) so gave him a go. Fair do’s, he might have done something special, like Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda did on their débuts, so I’m not going to criticise the manager, but it was probably a better time for Michael Owen. Who knows.
Park Ji-Sung didn’t do an awful lot other than look fairly light weight. He seemed to make himself more resistant to being out-muscled so easily before his injury but now he looks too weak to hold off anything. As he burst in to the box in the first half he should have got a shot away, but instead, tumbled over. He pulled out of 50-50 challenges and didn’t provide an awful lot of support to Patrice Evra as they attacked. I’m not a Park hater, but he surely has to be below Giggsy in pecking order.
Kuszczak made a good few saves and according to Sky Sports, was the man of the match, just ahead of Joe Hart. I’m still looking forward to Van der Sar returning though, hopefully next week, for his ability to organise the defence. Their goal was scrappy and ridiculous, pinging all over the box, and I’d like to think Edwin would sort his players out better than that.
The chant of the day had to be “we’re shit and we’re champions” though, which seems to sum up too many feelings from our fans at the moment. We’re just missing that cutting edge. But then you look at Arsenal, who drew with Everton at home today because of two deflected goals, and you have to wonder who does have the cutting edge? “It’s shit and it’s the Premiership” would maybe be a more fitting chant for English football this season.
Burnley at home next weekend, Hull at home the weekend after that. We’ve got to be looking at six points there, no question. Including yesterday, Birmingham have conceded just four goals all season at home, as well as drawing 0-0 with Chelsea, so we shouldn’t feel too bad. But if we’re not getting results in our next two league games then I might admit concern.