Tuesday, April 6 2021
A well-earned point on the road against automatic promotion chasing Brentford enhanced Blues chances of beating the drop.
Another hard working, disciplined performance where, for the most part, the team held the slick Bees at bay. And when the defence was breached, Etheridge produced a couple of fine saves to deny the prolific Ivan Toney.
Similar shape as Friday to start, with a couple of changes in personnel. After his last minute penalty heroics, Hogan began in place of Leko and, more surprisingly, rather than in his customary No. 10, in place of Seddon at left wing-back McGree started for the first time in ages. The main tweak to the formation was that Blues didn’t start with a No. 10 at all, Halilovic forming a midfield three to complement the energy of Sunjic and Gardner.
An even first half with Brentford more cultured in their build up, looking to exploit the space behind the wing-backs, but Blues dangerous on the break.
The first real chance of the game came on 15, when after good work from Hogan in the channel down the left, he rolled the ball across goal for the on-rushing Gardner who really should have scored but hit the post instead.
On the half hour, Brentford had an equally clear opportunity of a different kind. There was a gap to be used between McGree and Pedersen at left centre-half, and after a loose ball in midfield, Canos ran into that space and bore down on Etheridge. You waited for the net to bulge as Canos lifted it over Etheridge but, thankfully, his effort trickled the right side of the post from a Blues’ perspective.
A couple of minutes later Jukey was way off target when he had a uncontested header in the box. Then Toney forced Etheridge into a flying save before the teams left for half time, honours even.
Blues started the second half in a more orthodox 4-4-2, Bowyer having spotted the McGree- Pedersen problem and moving McGree into left-sided midfield, Pedersen edging across to left back to form a standard back four.
The change worked to the extent that Blues simplified their shape and they were able to hold it for the whole of a second half where Brentford made all the running but, again, didn’t unduly worry Etheridge.
The downside of the formation change was that apart from one break and shot from substitute Leko right at the end, after good work from the industrious Gardner, Blues rarely threatened. It was noticeable that without wing-backs and natural wingers on the park that the ball just wasn’t getting into the box, apart from the Roberts’ throw in.
It wan’t comfortable, Blues had to work really hard to protect their point, but the increased endeavour, commitment and discipline under Bowyer continued to impress.
The run of games against teams in the top six that greeted Bowyer now over, and with an unexpectedly good haul of seven points from them, thoughts now turn to games against the lesser lights of the division.
For long-term Blues watchers, one of the repeating patterns has been the ability to do well against the better opposition and then let it slip against those around and below them. Stoke, with nothing to play for, on Saturday will prove a great test of newly installed attitudes.
Play with the resolve we’ve seen in the last four games and a win should be forthcoming, become complacent because you think you’ve done it against the big boys and you’re in for a rude awakening. You would think, though, that Bowyer isn’t one to allow them to rest on their laurels.
A win against Stoke would put us in an good position to survive and set us up nicely for the Rotherham game which could seal the deal.
MoM – Gardner, again. Matched Sunjic’s effort and commitment in midfield, but added more that the Croat going forward.