Saturday, September 26, 2020
One of those games you could have lost, could have won, that ended up as a draw.
Blues failed one of their early season tests as they drew with Rotherham in an unpacked St Andrews. New team, familiar shortcomings as they failed to score from open play in a game where the onus was on them to take the game to the opposition – a trait seen far too often in the last few years.
Defensively the team was very secure, but we knew that already, having established themselves as a tough nut to crack in the first two games of the season. That was continued here as Rotherham were limited to long shots and set pieces in the first half and virtually nothing in the second. One smart save early on and a bit of bravery from a corner in the second was the extent to which Etheridge was extended.
The main question was did they have it going forward? The answer was, not really on this evidence.
In an attempt to take the game to Rotherham, Karanka changed his favoured 4-2-3-1 for our old friend 4-4-2, Toral sacrificed for the return of the Hogan. But the plan was let down by a sluggish start to the game and, indeed, a sluggish first half, as Rotherham had the better of it in a half lacking in quality.
Second half was better, as Blues discovered the missing urgency, you suspect a rocket at half time, and started advancing with one and two touch in midfield and long sweeps from the back to the wings. And it was Bela and Sanchez who provided the most threat, especially when Sanchez was supported by Colin down the right. Both wide men looked to cut inside and unleash shots, and Bela also had the ability to go the other way and hit the dead ball line, Sanchez relied more on Colin to provide this service on his side. But too often, good positions were squandered, crosses going behind players, the dead ball line hit and then failing to pick out a team mate in a packed box.
Two essentially holding players in centre midfield led to a lack of creativity from that area. Clayton was at his best keeping it short and simple, his radar a bit off on the longer stuff, and, apart from one early second half run into the box, Sunjic was little seen as an attacking force. Maybe Gardner, or even Crowley, would be better in this formation.
Most of the goalmouth action was left for the last ten minutes, as first Bela gave a masterclass in little French wingers trying to tackle in their own box to give away Rotherham’s converted penalty. Then he atoned for his error by converting our penalty a couple of minutes later after Toral had been bundled over by a clumsy Jones tackle in the box.
Usually Bela is out of the game by this stage, having run out steam at the hour mark, but in this game he just couldn’t help himself, conceding a penalty, scoring a penalty and then spurning a great opportunity to win it as his weak lob was clutched gratefully by Blackman when he was one on one with the goalkeeper deep into injury time.
There was still time for Colin to have a goal bound effort blocked as the ball fell to him in the box after a corner as Blues pressed for a winner.
Still undefeated in the league, only conceded from a penalty – almost the dictionary definition of a solid start. But, as most of us suspected, still some way to go going forward. So far, so Rowett.
Blues 0 – Rotherham 0