Friday 28 October 2022
Another exhilarating night at St Andrew’s as Blues turned over would-be league leaders QPR in front of a noisy crowd also rediscovering its mojo.
While Blues blew away the visitors in an energetic first-half performance, as Rangers came back into it in the second half we got the, so often missing, rub of the green.
We could have conceded another penalty or two, in addition to that given, and could easily have been down to ten men early in the second period when Hanibal was lucky to escape a second yellow card.
But, overall, the team deserved the luck they received and the win that moves them into the top half and within striking distance of the play-off places – heady stuff.
Two changes, which we’ve seen before and are becoming a pattern. Deeney and Hanibal came in for Hall and Bacuna.
Blues started off like a train, backed by a vociferous crowd, the largest since before the pandemic.
Early energetic pressure down the left-hand side resulted in a Blues’ corner. QPR failed to clear the resulting kick and the ball broke to Bielik on the edge of the box. He scuffed his shot, and it popped up for Trusty to help it on its way toward goal with an athletic flick off his heel, the ball looped in the air, over Dieng in the Rangers’ goal who had gone walkabout, and into the net. One – nil to the Blues with just six minutes gone.
Blues maintained the energy, the press and the intensity for the rest of the half. QPR had their chances, from set pieces and when the otherwise excellent Dean didn’t deal with a ball over the top and it broke to Roberts on the edge of the box. But on all occasions, the dependable Ruddy dealt with anything thrown at him, as well as dominating his box when the ball was slung in from wide.
Of more significance to the game as a whole was the booking that Hanibal received giving away an early free kick for tugging back a breaking Rangers player. Like Robbie Savage before him, Hanibal plays on the edge. Also, like Savage, he’s in the face of and an irritant to the opposition, both on and off the ball. The main difference between the two is that Hanibal is much better on the ball than Robbie was.
His early booking left Hanibal vulnerable to the hot-headedness which at the moment is part of his game. From when he went into the book, Eustace must have been thinking about when to give him the hook for the greater good of the team.
The decision actually came too late, as the young Tunisian really ought to have been off for his mistimed, going to ground, missing the ball but catching the man tackle just after the break. Blues and Eustace got lucky that the referee showed misjudged leniency.
By then Blues were defending a two-goal lead. The first-half pressure paid off again after half an hour with a first goal in senior football for on-loan West Ham wing-back, Longelo. Again, Blues got a break.
The ref could have stopped the game as the ball hit him as it was moved right to left by Hogan and Deeney. As it was, play continued and Hanibal released the overlapping Longelo. He ran at the QPR defence before cutting inside and, urged on by the crowd, let fly with his weaker right foot. The ball nestled in the opposite corner and Longelo was executing an impressive knee slide as he skidded towards the paddocks in the Main Stand.
Second half was about Blues standing their ground and keeping Rangers at arm’s length. Apart from the penalty conceded, this was done successfully, down in no small part to the classy and excellent Sanderson who had the best game of his second loan spell at St Andrew’s.
The penalty was given when Longelo was adjudged to have raised his boot too high in challenging Baird when the ball came into the box. It could be argued that Longelo’s foot was too high only because Baird was ducking into the cross.
The rights and wrongs of the award were made academic when Ruddy went full stretch to keep Dykes’ spot-kick out.
And that was it, QPR knew their chance had gone and Blues saw the game out comfortably.
Another energetic, well-organised, committed performance from a team high on confidence. And they’re playing some good stuff as well
“Scenes after the game cemented the growing bond between this team and the supporters”
Scenes after the game cemented the growing bond between this team and the supporters, against the background of the inspired choice of Food for Thought as the soundtrack.
The return of Gary Rowett and his high-flying Millwall team is next up at St Andrew’s. But, like QPR and Burnley before them, you feel confident this team can give them a game.
The ride is good at the moment, the best it’s been for years, let’s enjoy it and see where it takes us.