Birmingham C 4 (Bellingham 27, Jutkiewicz 61, 90+1, Bela 85
Leeds Utd 5 (Costa 15, Harrison 21, Ayling 69, Dallas 84, Harding 90+5 og)
There is absolutely no doubting our spirit and self-belief after that one is there? Mind you, the old school report might have something to say about our defending! “Must try harder” may well be the wording! It was a real winter warmer of a game though which must have pleased any neutrals watching on the red button.
None of the top 8 sides in the Championship were playing each other today and I thought, in my wisdom, that we might well see all 8 of them win. In fact, I considered our trip to St Andrews to be possibly the toughest assignment of the day. Well, in true Championship fashion, many of them proved me wrong, as four of the top 8 lost to lower placed opposition. That included the Albion of course, losing at home to Middlesbrough, which must give our lads a boost ahead of our visit to the Hawthorns on Wednesday. The Albion defeat, together with our incredible 5 – 4 win, means that Leeds top the table with 51 points from our 25 games this season as we close the 2019 chapter of this intriguing book. Incidentally, if you were to look back at the closing table of 2018… you’d see Leeds have an identical record of 51 points from 25 games so let’s remember nothing is won in December although averaging that 2 points a game leaves us in a great position again.
What do you say about the game? Well, as I mentioned above, full marks for our team spirit and self-belief, to be pegged back three times could have been enough to destroy any confidence that we could go on and win this game but we kept going and won the day. It was another game though that highlighted where this team of ours struggles… cross balls and set pieces continue to be our Achilles Heel. At the other end we were pretty devastating for a change, scoring 5 goals from only 11 attempts at goal, let’s hope we can continue with that sort of efficiency in front of goal through to the end of the season.
Finally we got to see Eddie Nketiah start a game and, as many of us feared, it took an injury to Patrick Bamford to achieve it; whether the two of them would have started together had they both been fit, we will never know. As it happens, I think the presence of the super quick witted and lightening quick footed Nketiah suited this game perfectly and perhaps showed the way forward while Pablo Hernandez is out of action. Without the poise and vision of Pablo in the middle we may as well get the ball forward quicker rather than, to paraphrase our CEO, dicking about in the middle. Whether the loss of Bamford was the reason we conceded four times as he wasn’t there to “defend from the front” again we’ll never know but my guess is Birmingham preyed upon our weakness in the air at the back and they’d have done that anyway. It is still a worry but, without having different personnel in there, I can’t see how we can improve it, other than getting back to having 75% of the possession to limit the opportunities for the opposition to exploit it. West Brom will be watching the video of this game with interest I’m sure so expect the same approach from them too.
For now though let’s just enjoy another three points from an exhilarating game of football and be happy that the recent run of three games without a win is more to do with playing against decent teams and not having Pablo, than anything more fundamental in terms of any loss of form. We were right on it today and, those defensive shortcomings aside, we were as good as we probably can be without the Spanish Maestro in the middle. If we can get out of the Hawthorns with a point on Wednesday then I think we can safely look forward to another spell of games that should bring plenty more points, as long as the trip to Arsenal doesn’t distract us.
Birmingham City Leeds Utd
Possession 46% 54%
Shots 15 11
On Target 4 5
Corners 7 9
Fouls Committed 10 11