If football matches ended at 80 mins we'd be laughing

Happy with the point? I got told I should be content because Birmingham are a decent side who have lost only once in the Prem recently and are very difficult to break down at home. In what was a horrible match (let's face it) they never looked all that and if it wasn't for yet another illustration of some textbook imperfections in our team we would have won. Instead, at the final whistle, we had made it to 5 points lost (in the final 10 minutes of a game). Five points that would have us in a far more comfortable position currently, with City's games in hand to come.

Instead, we are clinging on (4th) for dear life. Crisis in N17!!

Let's review.

First Half

Huddlestone and Palacios doing okay and Bale continuing his good form. There was balance through-out the side and shockingly, David Bentley was doing the simple things and doing them well. Nothing extraordinary but considering his troubles, this was assured from the almost forgotten man. Defensively, fine. Although there was the odd early scare and Gomes was also tested. The imperfections were in the final third of the pitch. One massive chance, Modric shooting wide. Not enough in front of goal. Wasn't a sexy opening 45 minutes and even though we've played 100 times better, you sensed we were on top of it. Slowly gyrating and fumbling in the dark, rather than going at it hammer and tongs with the lights on.

Second Half

Plenty more possession. Around the 60th minute mark I found myself hoping for some sort of shift in gear. A change of tempo. It's part of our footballing make-up that isn't quite right. Plenty of foundation, not enough glitter. Birmingham had shown very little in response so the game was there for the taking. So when we went 1-0 up, that was it. Or at least, it should have been. Instead the game opened up more, end to end, and that ominous smell of disappointment began to drift in, with nose-pegs kept handy for the inevitable.

We failed to slow the game down, take the zing out of it. Control it by retaining possession and dictating the pace. We always seem to lack the right level of leadership here. A Tottenham stamp of authority imprinted onto the game.

We then went from a period of sustained possession to allowing them to hold onto the ball and play it forward. And once more, with the ball back with us, we opted to rush forward for a 2nd when time wasting or retention was the better option. They attack, Corluka MIA and its 1-1.

Reaction to draw

Not disappointed. Angry. I don't care for their home record against top sides. We lost because we switched off. I blame Kaboul. We officially signed him just before the Brummies scored. You maniac! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you to hell!

Yet another late goal. We need to be turning early possession into goals.

We didn't test their keeper enough.

There's not enough creative juice up front.

And we don't seem to know what it is we are meant to be doing in the final quarter.

Hold onto the ball, defend deep and ball win or attack attack attack and seek out a second with the risk of conceding an equaliser?

Defoe and Crouch

Becoming one dimensional. Ball to Crouch, flick on, Defoe unaware of position to receive ball, opportunity wasted.

Although the one time it did work was when Crouch dived low to back-flick header the ball into Defoe's path, who lashed it past Joe Hart from about eight yards out. Genius assist, right?

If we had Berbatov and Keane (circa you know when) we'd be top.

Glug glug.

Substitutions


Not sure why we had to make them. If it was to perhaps add some inventiveness into the side, craft something out and make Birmingham chase us, it didn't quite work. But then again what do you expect when the two players are Keane and Jenas? Harry should have kept it tight. Although to be fair to Keane, he did alright in keeping the ball. JJ has now gone beyond the point of no return. He's  obviously a decent lad but he's painfully annoying to watch as a footballer.

I've often commented that if Dave Mackay turned up and found himself locked out of his home he'd take a step back and then rush forward with menace, shoulder barging his way through the door before using body parts pulled off Chuck Norris to repair the damage and then sleeping on top of a harem of women.

Jenas would search for a spare key under the door mat and upon failing to find one proceed to ride various London night bus routes until well past dawn before returning to his home to call a locksmith.

Subs in games such as this, at 1-0, need to be match-defining.

The 80th Minute Curse

If we are 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go, expect to drop two points. Yes, we should have won, but this season is jam-packed with 'shoulds'. We still lack the ability to kill teams off and then kill the game off. It's actually a nice problem to have. Honestly. Think about it. If Harry works out the solution and the players work that harder to make sure we keep it together as a unit, then we'll be laughing rather than wiping away the tears. Sadly, the one player we need - a midfield uber-leader - is the one player we won't be signing this Jan window. The problem being, there is no such player in our radar.

We are not a bad side. The hope is that the players have it in them. Might have been a last minute goal, but the game was lost in the prior 89 minutes.

Form wise - at the moment - we are not clinical enough to make something out of all the possession we have. There is no ruthlessness. But let's not pretend it wasn't there earlier in the season.

We seem to be naïve. Corluka rushing forward, losing the ball, not getting back in time to have a clue who to cover.

All eyes on Harry.

Positives

One defeat in twelve games (edit: It's two apparently). We're not getting out played. Bale is in superb form. Bentley is taking his chance and doing pretty okay with it. No showboating. Just hard work. With consistency and confidence, more might came. But everyone knows he'll be dropped the second Lennon is fit.

Player Ratings

Mainly 7/10 for all players. Bentley scores 7.7 and Crouch around 6. Poor, boring game with both keepers hardly with much to do. We miss Lennon and the out-let he provides along with the fact that he is the type of player that the opposing team have to work out a plan to attempt to stop him. We did enough to win the game, the very minimal requirement and then did enough to give it away.

Irony

We mugged them at WHL. They mugged us on Saturday.

Don't say it's true

We dropped plenty of points in 2006 which cost us 4th long before that fateful last day of the season. That year we were comfortable until the very end and only the one team was chasing us. This season, its altogether different.

Us, City, Villa, Liverpool and Everton (slowly creeping back into it) are wanting it. For me, it's Villa who look the strongest. City second. Not convinced by Liverpool. The gap between this group and Utd/Chelsea is closing but its still miles and miles apart. As seen by how United out-classed Arsenal. We have to be better than this group before worrying about the top 2. And at the moment I'd say we're ahead of Liverpool and Everton. We'll find out more when we play in the...

Cup Final


At home. To Villa. We could pretend we're playing West Ham and wipe the floor with them. Huge game this. Test of character, belief. Test of Harry's tactics and one that will either signal yet another assault on retaining 4th spot or the realisation that the season will be lost if the players continue to fail digging deep.

Leeds Away

Can we just stick three past them and be done with it?



COYS