December 22, 2012 by Made In Brum
Blues 2 Burnley 2.
If ever one game summed up Blues’ season, this was it. An injury ravaged side took to the field against Burnley, and after taking a deserved lead via a Curtis Davies header, Blues conceded two quick second half goals and once again had to fight back from behind. Nikola Zigic salvaged a point late on.
The visitors possess the Championship’s top scorer in Charlie Austin. In the main, Blues’ back four kept him quiet, but they still couldn’t keep the Clarets out. You wouldn’t have bet on Blues keeping a clean sheet, after all, they’ve only kept three all season, so why would we today?
With eight teenagers in the squad, seven of those in the starting eleven, Blues are officially down to the bare bones. Peter Lovenkrands was named in the starting line-up until he picked up an injury in the pre-match warm up meaning academy youngster Josh Hawker, who was in the stands watching with his Dad, was called upon to make the numbers up on the bench.
Sean Dyche has got Burnley playing some decent stuff and they should have broke the deadlock when Austin was played in, but Jack Butland pulled off a splendid one-handed save.
Will Packwood and Mitch Hancox were Blues’ full backs, and they did a grand job. What they lack in experience, they make up for in effort and drive. Paul Robinson who missed the game through illness, add to that the injuries to Papa Bouba Diop and the goal machine Marlon King, and it looked like a tough battle for the team today.
Usually, Blues concede first. But not today. With the directness of Rob Hall and Nathan Redmond, who had his best game for a long time, Blues looked lively. Ravel Morrison was part of a middle three with Callum Reilly and Hayden Mullins, who returned from suspension and in the early exchanges they fared well.
When Rob Hall’s corner was easily cleared by the visiting defence, he had a second bite at the cherry. The second ball in was pin-point and was met by Davies who headed Blues in front. “We’re winning at home, how sh*t must you be, we’re winning at home” was the cry from the faithful.
It was never a comfortable lead. But in truth, it was deserved. After soaking up a fair bit of early pressure, Lee Clark’s men took the game to Clarets.
Redmond forced a good save from Lee Grant with a powerful effort, it was tipped over the bar. In an interview this week, Redmond vowed to find his best form again. This will do for starters. I’ve criticised him a lot recently, but credit where credit’s due, he was better today.
Going into the half time break, I remember saying to the lad sitting by me ‘we need a second, I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet’. Until the 66th minute, it looked like it could be on the cards. However, Blues have only kept one clean sheet at home this season, so it wasn’t a shock when Danny Ings equalised. “How sh*t must you be, we’re drawing at home”.
I witnessed the young heads going down. Disaster. Two minutes later, Blues were behind. Davies gave away a needless free-kick. Ross Wallce. Remember him? He was the man who scored two long rangers for Preston in their 2-1 win at St. Andrews. If Blues had won that game, they would have secured promotion. As it went, we had to wait a week! The cheek of it.
Wallace’s free kick was inch perfect in beating the diving Butland. Oh no. “We’re back to normal, we’re losing at home”.
Although disappointed, the scoreline had a feel of normality about it. The St. Andrews crowd were urging Blues on after some pressure on the Burnley defence. The young lads in the team were running their knackers off.
A flurry of corners were dealt with and Redmond came close with a deft chip over the keeper, but the effort didn’t have enough pace on it and was eventually cleared.
But coming from behind is becoming Blues’ trademark. In the 89th minute, Zigic picked up a through ball and found himself running free. His blasted effort beat Grant low to his right and yet again, Blues had fought back.
After the game, Clark confirmed Paul Robinson may be back, but King is unlikely to make the Barnsley game on boxing day, and Diop is out for around 3-4 weeks. These festive games will be tough, especially with a skeleton squad.
One thing is for sure, the young lads need our backing. All impressed in their own way today and Clark’s direction is obviously going to be towards youth.
The game today marked the halfway point of the campaign. What does the second half of the season hold? Maybe a mid-table finish, a successful takeover, establish these youth players an then in the summer add to them. Right now, I’d take that.
Blues ratings- Butland 7. Packwood 7. Caldwell 6. Davies 7. Hancox 6. Redmond 7. Mulins 6. Reilly 6. Morrison 6. Hall 7. *ZIGIC 8…SUBS USED- Burke 6. Elliott 6.
Match report by Rob Wildey.