It never rains but it pours

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Birmingham City 0 – Preston North End 1

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Sod and sodden. Blues still can’t buy a win at St Andrews as Preston got the three points in a game that we probably didn’t deserve to lose, but did as a result of a ropey fifteen minutes after half-time.

Karanka named an unchanged line-up for the first time this season following the excellent win at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

But that continuity wasn’t evident as Preston started better. After a quarter of an hour so, though, Blues started to take charge and it was the same combination as Saturday, Bela and Friend, that started getting Blues up the park.

It looked like the tactic was to get Bela one against one with the makeshift full-back Browne, often using Friend as the decoy. On a couple of occasions Bela got himself into good positions with his trickery only to squander them with overhit crosses. The most dangerous moment came when he made his way to the dead ball line only for his cut back cross to not quite reach the on rushing Hogan before being cut out.

Suddenly Blues were playing. The previously anonymous Toral came into it around the half hour with flicks and hold up play before distributing to the wings. This also bought Sanchez into the game and from one such situation he did a trademark cut inside before unleashing a shot which was well saved by Iversen in the Preston goal.

Blues didn’t want half-time to come as it looked only a matter of time before their dominance paid off. But half-time did come and it signalled a complete change to the pattern of the game.

Whereas in the first half the Blues back four were in line as a unit and, as a result, kept catching the Preston forwards offside, at the start of the second the line went ragged and the rejuvenated away forwards started getting through one-on-one with Etheridge with alarmingly regularity.

A long shot from Potts which needed saving by Etheridge was sandwiched between two occasions when Sinclair and Potts were slipped through the Blues backline. With his chance, Potts somehow contrived to hit the post when it looked easier to score.

“But it was just a stay of execution”

text

But it was just a stay of execution as former Blues loanee Sinclair slipped the ball through Dean’s legs and beyond the on-rushing Etheridge after the Blues defence was breached once again

The goal came just after a double change for Blues which saw Jukey replace the hamstrung Hogan, who’d worked really hard after his weekend winner, and Leko coming on for Toral.

The rain that had been hammering down managed to somehow intensify and the St Andrews pitch was bringing back memories of Derby’s Baseball Ground in the seventies. Nevertheless, Blues regrouped and went again, with the sub Halilvoic prominent as he glided over the mudheap.

Chances came and went, the best of which fell to Sunjic in the seventh and last minute of added time when he scuffed his shot when well placed on edge of the six-yard box. But there was to be no get out of jail free card for Blues as they, literally, sunk to yet another home defeat.

Not for the first time this season the momentum of a good away win was stopped in its tracks by our inability to win a home game, even when playing reasonably well. Blues are now racking up many different ways to fail at St Andrews.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Lee Clark, the only consolation being I wasn’t there to get drenched and endure a late night drive back home to Bristol in my sodden pants.

Joys

  • Good control in the first half with some nice stuff played as they approached half time
  • Exciting sub appearance from Halilovic, started to run the game
  • Etheridge’s shot stopping

Sorrows

  • That fifteen minute period after half-time that lost us the game
  • The defensive line during that period
  • Etheridge’s kicking
  • Hogan’s injury
  • That pitch
  • The weather

Player ratings

Etheridge – 7

Mixed. Good shot stopping kept us in the game after half time, but wayward kicking lost us possession at vital moments.

Colin – 6

Not anywhere near as influential as he was on Saturday.

Dean – 6

Solid for the most part, brought the ball out of defence well.

San Jose – 6

Looked a class act for the first half, but then part of the defence that crumbled after half time.

Friend – 6

Great first half as he linked up with Bela. Not so great second as most of the problems after half time seemed to come down his side.

Sunjic – 6

Still think that he could be doing more with the talent he’s got rather than just rampaging around midfield. Terrible miss at the end that cost us a point.

Kieftenbeld – 7

Good again at the things he does best, but his distribution has also been good in the last couple of games. Be interesting to see where Harper fits into things. On current form, for me, it’s Sunjic’s place that is under threat rather than Mike’s

Sanchez – 6

Only really showed up once with a first half cut inside and shot. Wasn’t given much ball to play with, though.

Toral – 6

Infuriatingly inconsistent both within from game to game and within games. Halilovic got on the ball much more when he came on, but that was against a Preston team that had started to fall back and leave the space for him to work in.

Bela – 7

Really good in the first half, although his crossing left a lot to be desired. disappeared, like it often does, in the second.

Hogan – 7

Clearly buoyed by his goal on Saturday, really put in a shitf as a lone striker before injury took himont of the game. No real chances for him to convert or miss.

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