Sunday, 12 July 2020
Change of manager, change of formation, but no change to the feeling that Blues won’t be able to save themselves.
Our best bet for avoiding the third spell in the third tier of my time supporting Blues is to rely on others to help us out, other teams just not winning games or the EFL stripping Wigan or Wednesday of points.
A change of formation by Spooner in his first game in caretaker charge. 3-5-2 saw Nico Gordon making a shaky full debut on the left side of a three-man central defence. Dean was also part of that defence, replacing the injured Clarke-Salter.
An out of position and on the wrong side Harding played left wing-back as Pedersen was also injured and the natural for that role, Seddon, plays for another club at the moment.
Further forward the change of formation meant that the wide men, Crowley and Bela, were sacrificed.
You could understand the change in formation. First thing, stop shipping so many goals and keep yourself in the game, a basis for attacking later. It didn’t work. The players were, in turn, static and clumsy as Stoke piled on the pressure from the start, and it was no surprise when Danny Bathh forced in at the back post from Powell’s cross after twelve minutes. This time, Roberts took Pedersen’s recent role of being weak in the challenge as the ball came in from wide.
So, within a quarter of an hour, chasing the game. There had been much talk about the team not knowing when or whether to stick or twist and nothing had changed here, but with the added ingredient of not being able to twist if they wanted to. Harding is willing, but combined running up blind alleys with giving the ball away from simple passes anytime he ventured up the wing. And, like Colin on the other side, he was always isolated, no teammate anywhere near him.
It really felt like the game was up when Stoke added a second just before half-time, Clucas allowed to run at the defence without challenge before curling one round Camp. Camp’s form since the resumption is an anomaly, he’s been excellent while shipping goals.
Second half saw a change in formation and personnel. The tactic hadn’t worked. It also felt like it had been employed against the wrong opponents, much more suited to a Swansea who play through midfield in numbers, rather than a Stoke who like to get the ball forward reasonably rapidly.
Blues perked up as they reverted to 4-4-2, Bela for Harding, Gordon on the left of a flat back four. And up until the drinks interval they looked lively but without creating much. There are no chances for Hogan and Jukey to miss at the moment. But the drinks interval passed without us getting one back. After it, even the liveliness disappear as we went through the motions.
Youngsters were bought on as the half progressed, to mixed effect. Reid, who looked full of life against Swansea, was anonymous. Burke looked better than Gordon, Boyd-Munce looked better than Bellingham.
Most of the young replacements were at the expense of out of sorts seniors, Hogan and Sunjic. Sunjic looks as though he feels that he’s shown enough in the first half of the season to secure an advantageous move, not contributing anything you can’t get from Dutch Mike, who’ll also be more committed to the cause. A shame, as I thought in Sunjic we had a thoroughly modern footballer who could help us play a more progressive style of football.
Gigs not up yet, another six-pointer against Charlton on Wednesday, and one win will almost certainly see us over the line. But another depressing afternoon to be a Birmingham City supporter.
Stoke City 2 – Blues 0