Resurgent Blues

Birmingham City 2 – West Bromwich Albion 0

Friday 9 February 2023

Just as you began to fear the worst, Blues followed on from their remarkable second half performance and win at Swansea to produce one of their best displays of the season with an exhilirating win over the Baggies at a noisy and hostile St Andrew’s last night.

Back to pre-World Cup levels of energy and togetherness, Blues did the double over West Brom for the first time since the last millennium. And they were good value for the win. For the most part they were the only side in it, better in all departments than their in form visitors.

In a very good all round team performance where everyone contributed, including those from the strongest looking bench of the season, the stand out performer was Hannibal. The energy and committment of the on-loan Man U youngster has been there all season, but sometimes that hasn’t translated into end product. That wasn’t the case last night as he made one and scored in a player of the match performance.

The atmosphere at the ground was fostered by the rebellion that had been in the air all week in the build up to the game, as plans were hatched to display discontent with the board in front of a watching television audience. In the end, protest was mainly contained to outside the ground and a bit of chanting inside. Threats of pitch invasions came to nothing. The tactic of getting the game abandoned loses some of its potency when you take a reasonably early lead and are in need of three points.

“… he skulked off after about an hour with his tail between his legs having contributed exactly zilch”

Instead, the legitimate hostility towards the board translated into voiceferous backing for the team and the bating of Baggies’ players and supporters alike. The main recipient was DVB Albrighton. This is what it used to be like down St Andrew’s when Alex Feguson descibed it as the most intimidating atmosphere to play in. We used to rattle the opposition to the point of nullifying their contribution on and off the pitch – I’m thinking of Arsenal and Aresene, in particular. And that’s what happened with Albrighton, to the point where he skulked off after about an hour with his tail between his legs having contributed exactly zilch.

Unlike previous managers, Eustace has shown that he isn’t inflexbile when it comes to tactics. Most of his selections this season would suggest that 5 – 3 – 2 is his preferred formation, but after a dire first half at Swansea he was big enough to admit to a mistake, a rare quality nowadays, and change it to the 4 – 4 -2 which sparked the remarkable turnaround.

He started with a 4-4-2 here, albeit with a diamond, which may have been influenced by the absencce of Longelo one of the main catalysts at whatever Swansea’s ground is called these days (being old school, my mind still calls it the Vetch Field).

As well as our own efforts, we were also aided by a woeful display of goalkeeping by West Brom’s Button, at fault for both of our goals.

Hannibal’s opener from a free kick while stunning in its execution owed a lot to Button’s starting postion reasonably close to where the the first row of the Kop would be if it wasn’t a pitch invading denying building site at present. For Bielik’s header from Hanibal’s corner which sealed the deal in the second half, Button came, saw and completley missed. These were just the main highlights of a throughly shakey performance from the Baggies stopper.

And on Bielik, he was back to his best last night, breaking it up and starting us on our way forward. There’s a growing sense that if Bielik plays well, Blues plays well.

A word for Long as well, part of an outstanding defence on the night. Fair to say that he hasn’t made the best of starts to his career with us, and an underhit back pass to Ruddy in the first half promised more of the same. But as the game progressed, Long grew into the game and battle more and more until he assumed rock like status in the second half.

Juke too showed that reports of his demise might be a bit premature, as he bullied the West Brom centre halves to create space for our better technicians, like Bacuna and Chong, to exploit.

All-in-all, a throwback night with passion and commitment both on and off the pitch yielding the required result. But remember kids, this can only start happening on a regular and consistent basis if we get #BSHLOUT.

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