Official – bubble not burst

Birmingham City 1 – Watford 1

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

There were many, myself included, who feared that Saturday’s poor result and display at Cardiff was a sign of things to come. New manager bounce and early season enthusiasm over, a soul-sapping string of defeats for our U23 side peppered with a few old lags awaited before the ultimate humiliation of relegation sometime around Easter.

Last night’s credible draw against parachute payment rich newly demoted Watford showed that this was far from the case – perhaps that 18th place that is rightfully ours isn’t out of the question.

With Watford undoubtedly the better side on paper and on the pitch – and why wouldn’t they be with the resources at their disposal? – Blues used organisation, hard-work, youthful enthusiasm and not a fair degree of skill, once again mainly in the form of the once again excellent Bacuna, to battle to a draw against one of the early season favourites for promotion.

Two changes by Eustace from South Wales. Roberts, early runner and rider for the boo boys favourite of the year, had a thigh injury and young Williams retained his place after coming on as sub for the most effective long-thrower currently in the professional game on Saturday. Once agin Colin, another on that runners and riders’ list, stepped inside to play centre back. Both Williams and Colin had good games in an excellently well organised and disciplined five man defence.

The wing back system worked much better both defensively and offensively than on Saturday’s scary outing. Placheta was much more solid as well, looking like someone had had a word with him about his positioning.

I’ve no axe to grind with Roberts, apart from the long throw thing and he’s only obeying orders on that. He’s a wholehearted but limited player who does a job. However, one of his major limitations is his distribution. Save for the occasional raking cross field pass that comes from nowhere, it’s usually the aimless hoof. With Colin in the central back three, last night the ball out of defence gave Bacuna the chance to do things rather than watch it sail over his head. Throughout Blues were prepared and confident enough to play the ball across the back.

Second change saw another of the young tyros, George Hall, replace his fellow babe in arms, Alfie Chang. This necessitated Jordan James moving backwards a bit to a more defensive midfield position and he did it very well.

James is probably the cream of the young crop at the moment, maybe Hall or Jobe will prove to be more of a baller, but Jordan has already displayed a degree of consistency over a longer period of time and in more than one position.

A worry with young players is that they burn brightly at first and then burn out all too soon or that they are burned out by being overplayed too early. I’m long enough in the tooth to remember current Brighton boss, Graham Potter, falling into that category, skinny young thing that he was, rather than the old sea dog that he seems to be turning into these days. Current triallist/mate-of-the-manager Jordan Mutch probably befell the same fate. It was good, therefore, to hear Eustace talk after the game about knowing when to leave the youngsters out as well as when to play them.

Like Whitney Houston, I believe the children are our future and, in the case of Blues, this is our immediate future, so let’ s look after them properly.

Hall capped an enterprising and energetic game with a well taken and made goal on 19 minutes.

“Football being what it is ….. Blues immediately took the lead.”

After the early skirmishes had died down, Watford started to take control of the game and it looked like it was only a matter of time until they opened their account.

Football being what it is, just as I was thinking that, Blues immediately took the lead.

Excellent work down the right from Hogan saw him make his way to the bye line to cut it back to the on-rushing Hall to calmly sweep home almost from the edge of the box. One – nil Blues.

The rest of the game was mainly about Blues resisting Watford’s greater skill and experience, although you felt there was always a chance that they could snatch something on the break, especially when those breaks involved Bacuna.

Not for want of trying, they didn’t quite make it. The ever-dangerous wing-back Sema, part of Williams’ heavy workload for the evening, arrowing it in the opposite corner after Ruddy had parried one away on 63 minutes. But a valiant effort where all the team deserve recognition for their effort and Eustace deserves credit for his organisation of the team.

A good point and display in a game where most of the pre-game predications from Blues fans were that we were about to get mullered.

Another home game next up. The Wigan game is another one of those Achilles heels for Blues. Having got a result against a top team, it has often been the case that Blues fail to capitalise by losing to a team that they could/should be beating. We’ll see on Saturday whether Eustace can break that cycle with this team. Bring it on.

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