Birmingham City 1 – Coventry 1
Saturday 30 January 2021
Well, we didn’t lose at home, so that’s an improvement. A really stupid basic error goal given away and an inability to make their second half superiority count left Blues still looking over their shoulders at the bottom three and three points behind their tenants.
Karanka made two changes from the last game, both of them surprising, both of them ineffective. Clayton was the choice to replace the departed Dutch Mike, ahead of Gardner or new-boy Harper, and Pedersen came in for Friend.
The first fifteen minutes were particularly low on quality, most of the time seemed to be spent taking throw-ins, and the flow of the game wasn’t helped by the ref’s constant double toot on his whistle given any opportunity.
But then Blues scored. Clayton prompted Sanchez on the left, he made his way into the box, only to be bought down by McCallum, the Coventry left-back. Penalty, which Bela dispatched with venom.
This prompted Blues to start playing and for a quarter of an hour they were on the front foot, creating a few chances, particularly from Bela set pieces. But, almost inevitably this season, they shot themselves in the foot when things were going well. Clayton tried to shepherd a ball out of play that was never going and O’ Hare nipped around him and pulled the ball back from the dead ball line for Hamer to sweep home. Blues’ defence, meanwhile, had switched off waiting for a non-existent goal kick to be given. It had to happen to Clayton who, so far, is enduring a nightmare season.
Another recurring habit of Blues’ season is their inability to steady themselves after conceding, and for the rest of the half it was Coventry who looked the much more likely, looking to expose Blues’ weakness to the ball over the top, which did for them against Preston in the last home game.
To be fair, Karanka addressed the two main problems with half time substitutions. The hapless Clayton was put out of this misery, the correct starter, Gardner, taking his place, and Roberts came on for Toral, San-Jose pushing up into midfield, leaving us less vulnerable to the ball played into the space between the back four and goalkeeper.
The result of the changes were that, for the most part, Blues dominated the second half both territoriality and possession-wise. The Sky Blues had a couple of dangerous breaks but in reality Etheridge didn’t have that much to do.
The problem was that Blues, with Gardner driving them forward and showing a willingness to press the Coventry back four, were unable to make their superiority count. A mixture of poor final balls when well placed and fluffing what chances did come their way, Hogan missing one header when well placed, meant that Blues endured another game where they failed to score from open play. A new striker or two are on their way, but the nagging doubt remains that we’re just not creating enough chances for them.
Clearly, we’re not yet in a good place if a home draw against a team around us in the league feels like a half-decent result, but there were some positives to be taken from the game, not the least being that, for once, we didn’t lose at home.