Middlesbrough 1 – Birmingham City 0
Wednesday 5 October 2022
Blues fell to a disappointing and probably undeserved deafest at the Riverside last night, losing by a single first half goal sloppily conceded from a set piece.
Eustace started with the same eleven that earned a hard-fought draw at Sheffield United where Blues displayed an admirable resilience, coming from behind against the then league leaders who hadn’t dropped a point at home all season.
The thinness of the squad being what it is, apart from youngsters Eustace didn’t have a lot of options to change things. But you worried about the energy levels after the effort spent to bring the point back from Bramall Lane.
This lack of usable numbers may come back to haunt us in October, as Blues look to cram in seven games, with another three at the start of November, before the ill-judged winter World Cup in Qatar.
Energy levels didn’t seem to be a problem when Blues started the game well, taking the game to their managerless opponents. It was only after Boro scored that the problem became more apparent with, unlike Saturday, the response to falling behind being distinctly lacklustre.
Blues did perk up again just before half time and the second half effort was better. This was in part due to the introduction of Hannibal for the anonymous Bacuna at half time. Hannibal added much needed energy if not accuracy to Blues play.
The amount of ball and pressure that Blues had in the second half created a good case for at least a share of the spoils. That we went home with nothing was, once again, down to missing chances, often good chances.
The main culprit in that department was Hogan. It’s feast or famine with Scott at the moment. There was no sign of the clinical finisher from the Hawthorns last night.
Most are agreed that a pacy poacher is the priority in January, if one exists in our price bracket. It was, though, a bit of a surprise that when changes were made that we didn’t see Leko after his hat-trick for the Under-21s recently.
The goal conceded on 23 minutes which ultimately lost the match was similar to that at Sheffield on Saturday in that the main striker was left on his own in acres of space following a set piece.
Roberts has his detractors and limitations, generally he can’t pass a football, but these two goals show what he is good at and brings to the team – organisation and the ability to mark players and win and clear the ball coming into the box from set pieces. It’s no coincidence that we’ve conceded these two goals when he’s been out of the team. Given that he seems to be out for a lengthy time, it raises the prospect of a recall for Harlee Dean, who is of similar ilk. That would be some comeback.
“Best player on the night, not for the first time, was Bielek”
Best player on the night, not for the first time, was Bielek, whose class stood out among the hustle and bustle of what was, truth be told, a reasonably poor Championship match.
Any defeat sets the alarm bells ringing nowadays and panic seems to set in almost at once on Twitter. To step back, we’re doing better than expected both points wise and league position. And we’re playing as a team with a sense of purpose and degree of togetherness not seen at St Andrews for a while, and there’s also just a bit more class knocking about, particularly in the midfield. But the lack of resources at Eustace’s disposal at the moment threatens to undermine the fine job he’s being doing so far.