It was billed as a must win game – like just about every other game in the Championship – where teams can instantly be plunged into both the promotion or relegation whirlpool.
The crowd and atmosphere was, admittedly, slightly better than recent attendances partly due to the usual loyal Ram’s following. Blues fielded a side as near as possible to the Blackpool game which Lee Clark alone had billed as an ‘excellent performance’ and the sort of football he wanted to see played down at St Andrews… Lord help us!
The early exchanges probably saw Blues have the edge without really looking remotely dangerous. In fact, it took a brilliant reaction save from Jack Butland to keep them from going behind but, with Derby coming more into the game, a goal wasn’t long in coming. Admittedly, it looked like a Blues player was fouled in the build-up to Derby’s opener, but nevertheless the goal was disappointing with Blues defenders not reacting quickly enough to the Rams’ dangerous attacking play. Derby could have even perhaps doubled their lead if a brave Paul Robinson hadn’t put his substantial body on the line to block a well-struck shot from inside the Blues box.
It all made for a halftime of doom, gloom and mutterings with talk of Division 1 football echoing around St. Andrews; Lee Clark’s ears must have been burning like hades but, fair play to him, as his ‘Barry Fry’ moment having made two half time substitutions eventually paid off. Taking off Chris Burke – unless he was injured – was no doubt a bit of a shock, but his replacement Nathan Redmond wasn’t a bad trade off in the slightest. Wes Thomas on the other hand came on for the distinctly average Peter Lovenkrands – not his best performance in a Birmingham City shirt, I’m sure he’ll admit. And it wasn’t long after that Clark’s final substitution entered the field of play; Ravel Morrison – who had been missing from action for a while – replacing Callum Reilly in the centre of the park.
The introduction of Morrison restored some balance by bringing creativity to a previously hard working but one-dimensional centre of midfield. Wes Thomas showed his much vaunted but rarely displayed ‘pace and power’ (or should that now be ‘shock and awe’) with two well-taken goals; I, along with many other Bluenoses, had to reach for a slice of humble pie of Desperate Dan proportions. Meanwhile, Nathan Redmond showed Chris Hughton inspired form to run across the box before a thundering finish – reminiscent of his first for the club against CD Nacional – lifted spirits to an unbelievable high from the depths of halftime.
Overall, Blues deserved this vital win and a word for Shane Ferguson who had an outstanding game; although I would like to see him back plying his trade on the wing. I would think two wins and a draw would see us safely into midfield mediocrity that many of us now crave: unthinkable two years ago, but this year a realistic target.
Incidentally, I note that yet again we failed to warrant a mention from the Football League Show pundits. So Luther, Stevie and Manish; I don’t care if you don’t mention us again for the rest of this season.
Vice Chairman, Blues Trust