A midweek Midlands Derby for us tonight at the CBS against Birmingham City, and in my view, a game that was easily winnable. We’ve been excellent at home so far and Birmingham’s form has been patchy - off the back of our goalless draw at Sheffield United at the weekend I felt that Mark Robins would want the team to go out and score goals, so I was expecting to see a game with us being mostly on the front foot.
Sadly I couldn’t attend tonight’s game for medical reasons - I’m Diabetic (Type 1) and have to have an annual eye screening which happened to be booked in for today. The screening involves drops being put into my eyes to widen my pupils so they can take a picture of the back of my eyes - it’s a routine procedure and doesn’t take very long but the effects of the drops can last a few hours, meaning my eyes have been more sensitive to light for the best part of today! With that in mind I thought I would be better off staying at home for this game, sitting in the dark and enjoying Sky’s coverage instead!
I was pleased to see that we’d switched back to our normal formation for this game, with two strikers up top (Gyokeres and Godden). Ian Maatsen was also back from suspension meaning Fankaty Dabo could move back to his favoured right side of the pitch tonight. The first thing I noticed tonight once the game kicked off though was Matty Godden’s spectacular moustache - if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look! I thought Birmingham looked quite sharp in the opening few minutes of the game and I could tell that they were up for it, but once we settled down it was clear that we were the better of the two sides in my opinion.
Callum O’Hare was constantly finding space to exploit and our defenders seemed to be allowed to get involved in our attacks at will, with no danger of being pressed by Birmingham’s front line - Dom Hyam was given time to play long, low passes forward to find a man, and at times Kyle McFadzean was allowed to carry the ball through into the opposition half and almost to the edge of their box! We worked a few chances for ourselves but couldn’t really test Birmingham’s keeper Sarkic much - some good link up play between Godden and O’Hare on the right led to Godden being able to get a shot away however the angle was against him, and Sarkic wasn’t troubled too much by his effort on goal in the end.
Arguably our best chance of the first half came off the back of some unbelievable football - we worked the ball up the pitch on the right hand side again Viktor Gyokeres managed to flick the ball up for Gustavo Hamer to run on to - Hamer got into the box and sold the defender before pulling the ball back to the edge where Ian Maatsen was waiting to strike, but his shot was a tame one and in the end the save was fairly easy for Sarkic. A frustrating one, but had it gone in it would’ve been an incredible team goal!
There’s also the matter of the penalty shout to discuss - it was a penalty in my eyes, no question. Viktor Gyokeres was pulled down by Birmingham centre half Sanderson at a corner, and the only reason I can think of as to why the penalty wasn’t given is that the referee’s view was obscured. Sanderson literally had a handful of Gyokeres’ shirt and dragged him backwards, it was a clear foul and should’ve been given - if this was a Premier League game I’m certain VAR would’ve given it.
Alas, it wasn’t to be and we went into half time goalless. I’m not sure how we weren’t able to take the lead given that we had been on top for the majority of the game so far, but again we’ve been punished for our lack of killer instinct in front of goal. I felt confident that we would get a goal in the second half though, I’m always confident of this these days given how the season has been going!
The first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half seemed to consist of literally nothing but Birmingham throw ins from what I recall. Marc Roberts possesses a Rory Delap-esque ability to throw the ball a ridiculously long way, and Birmingham definitely use this to their advantage - every throw in within 30 yards of the goal is slung into the box to try and cause problems and thankfully for us tonight we were equal to them, and we had a lot of practice as well! Birmingham were very much in the ascendency in the opening minutes of the second half and they were able to win plenty of throw ins, but just couldn’t threaten Simon Moore.
Our first real chance of the half came from a counter attack, with Viktor Gyokeres managing to slip the ball through for the oncoming Gustavo Hamer - he was only able to poke the ball goalwards though and Sarkic had another comfortable save. We didn’t really have many other chances in the half and with time ticking away this was a bit worrying - a lack of urgency is not what we need! Birmingham had a penalty shout of their own with Riley McGree going over just inside our box - I don’t think it was a foul, he seemed to take a big swing at the ball and miss it completely which threw him off balance. Not long after this Ian Maatsen found himself breaking away on the counter only to be clipped from behind by Ryan Woods to win us a free kick.
The referee then shocked everyone by producing a straight red card for Woods - according to Sky this was for serious foul play which I have to say I don’t agree with. Yes it was a cynical foul, Woods knew exactly what he was doing by stopping the counter attack but it was a yellow card challenge for me! He did take a bit of a swipe with the challenge but I really can’t see how it could be endangering Maatsen too much other than him potentially grazing his knees when he hit the deck!
With an extra man though surely we had to take advantage and grab ourselves a late winner - the lads did try, but sadly couldn’t find a winner in the end. Gyokeres had a great chance but blazed it over the bar, stoppage time substitute Tyler Walker also had a great opportunity but seemed to rush the shot on the turn when he had a lot more time and space than he must’ve realised. Walker’s shot was dragged wide, and that was that - a bore draw.
A point is a point and it’s always better to not lose the game, but this feels like two points dropped for me. We should be beating teams like Birmingham comfortably right now and we struggled to punish them in the first half, then didn’t have enough about us in the second half either. It’s irritating as we were the better side, and we could’ve done with the points given that we have high flyers Bournemouth away at the weekend. Somebody needs to hit the back of the net sooner rather than later!
I hope Matty Godden keeps his moustache.
Match day photos supplied by my brother Joe - thank you!