Another day, another penalty and sending off

Adrian Robson at Wembley in 1991

Birmingham City 0 – Watford 1

Saturday 12 December 2020

Blues fell to a disappointing defeat, conceding a late, contentious penalty in a generally dull game at the Trillion etc.

After two really good wins on the road playing 4-2-3-1, Karanka went back to 5-3-2/3-5-2 in an attempt to contain one of the better sides in the division. There were also major changes in personnel as many double-barrelled players, Jukey and Gardner came in for Hogan, Sanchez, Colin, Toral and the suspended Dean.

For the best part in the first half, this worked as Blues not only stifled ex-prem boys Watford but had the better of the attacking play, although they were unable to test returning Wembley hero Ben Foster in the Hornets’ goal.

All-in-all there’s wasn’t much to get excited about in the first period. Watford disappointed for a team with so many good players fresh from the top division in their ranks.

They improved, however, as they opened the second half looker quicker and slicker and Blues’ backline had to be on their guard. They failed in this duty on two occasions when boyhood Blues fan Deeney should have scored.

First, he was allowed to run through one-on-one against Etheridge. He had enough time to bring it down and place it, instead he tried to be clever by lobbing the keeper and ended up looking foolish. Then, from a cross from a wide position, not one but two Watford forwards were on their own around the penalty spot. The ball came to Deeney who, once again, failed to make the onion bag bulge.

“t was this that contributed to Blues’ undoing.”

Blues did that game plan thing on 79 minutes of having played quite conservatively throughout then going for a power play for the last 15 minutes by introducing Halilovic, Sanchez and Colin and switching to four at the back. It was this that contributed to Blues’ undoing.

Pedersen, who as I write is getting after-match pelters on Twitter, had looked good most of the afternoon in a wing-back position. The switch to a four exposed his regular achilles heel of defensive positioning. He was too far up the pitch and too narrow as the ball was slid in behind him for a runner. He made up the ground on the Watford forward, but in making a slide tackle from behind he allowed the Watford man to go down and the ref blew his whistle for a pen. It was touch and go as to whether the Dane had played the ball. A second yellow card and he was off. But the mistake wasn’t so much the tackle as the bad positioning which led him to make the tackle.

Just as you thought that Deeney didn’t have it in him to score against the Blues today, he hammered the spot kick into the roof of Etheridge’s net.

Not really enough time for Blues to get an equaliser, Gardner nonetheless did have Ben scrambling after one long range free kick.

Watford deserved to win on good chances created, Blues deserved a point on the balance of play. Either way it’s a minor setback rather than a major disaster.

Joys

  • Solid at the back against a top Championship side
  • Good control of game in first half.

Sorrows

  • Not a lot going forward. Missed the creativity of Bela and Sanchez
  • Late system change in an attempt to win the game backfired
  • Wrong side of crucial refereeing decision – again
  • Individual mistake by Pedersen lost the game.

Player ratings

Etheridge – 6

Couldn’t repeat Wednesday’s heroics as Deeney blasted the penalty past him. Didn’t have a lot to do otherwise.

Dacres-Cogley – 7

Played well, as he did in his only other league performance against Preston. Solid in defence and got forward a couple of times. Feeling that this is the make-or-break season at Blues for D-C.

Pedersen – 5

Poor old Pedersen. Having made an excellent return to form on Wednesday and having played well here, one, admittedly, very poor piece of defending and all Twitter hell rained down on him. Will he be able to come back, like Dean and Kieftenbeld?

Roberts – 7

Did what he needed to do – headed and kicked the ball away. Refreshing absence of long-throws and cross field passes.

San Jose – 7

Composed performance playing at the back. One long pass in the first half showed Roberts how it’s done and was unlucky not to score from a nice corner kick move. Probably going to be more effective playing at the back where positioning can make up for lack of pace, rather than the hurly-burly of the Championship midfields.

Clarke-Slater – 7

Smooth and effective.

Kieftenbeld – 6

A level down from his last two games. Maybe three in a week was a bridge too far. Substituted before he got sent off as he started to mistime his tackles.

Sunjic – 7

A good game without doing anything spectacular. Kept going and didn’t duck out of any tackle.

Gardner – 6

Didn’t really affect the game from open play. Good contribution from dead balls – the corner for S-J and the Foster saved free-kick near the end. Willingness to take one to block Watford free-kicks.

Leko – 6

Flattering to deceive at the moment. Twinkle toes, nice turns, dribbles, but it’s not resulting in end product, apart from that back heel the other week.

Jutkiewicz – 6

Battled away as usual but didn’t have a lot to feed off.

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