Debutants play crucial role in opening day victory for Blues

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August 10, 2015 by Shane Ireland

Written by: Luke Turner

Birmingham City may have began their 2015/16 Championship campaign with a win but there is still room for improvement.

A 2-1 win gave Gary Rowett’s side the perfect start to the season but credit has to be given to the visitors Reading, who certainly made Blues work for the win and will perhaps feel a bit unlucky not to have left St Andrew’s with at least a point. After hitting the woodwork three times and having a lastminute penalty saved by Blues debutant Tomasz Kuszczak, Steve Clarke and his players will be scratching their heads as to how they didn’t come away with all three points.

Gary Rowett handed debuts to three of his summer signings. One of those included ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak. I think it’s fair to say the Pole didn’t have the steadiest of games. He looked nervy throughout and I for one don’t trust his handling. His kicking was wayward and a couple of spills put forward the question as to whether he is the man Gary Rowett wants between the sticks. However, there wasn’t much he could do to prevent Nick Blackman heading in what proved to be just a consolation goal for Reading. His last-minute penalty save to deny Orlando Sa did, in the end, make him the hero of the hour and hopefully that will give him some confidence. But, I think Rowett has a big decision to make as to who will be his permanent number one. With Blues travelling to Bristol Rovers in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening, it is likely that Adam Legzdins will have the opportunity to stake a claim to be Blues’ number one keeper.

Maikel Kieftenbeld was another debutant and started alongside Stephen Gleeson in the middle of the park. The Dutchman looked composed on the ball and has greater physicality in his game than his midfield partner. However, the midfield looked too lightweight and Reading found it too easy to play in between the lines and both Kieftenbeld and Gleeson lacked an attacking threat. The introduction of David Davis was an attempt to offer more of a physical threat in midfield and give more protection to the under-attack defence. This didn’t work out and Davis was sloppy in possession and eventually gave away the penalty in the dying seconds. Rowett turned to skipper Paul Robinson who came on and sat in front of the back four for the final ten minutes. There is clear evidence that Blues are in need of an extra midfielder who can provide both defensive protection as well as an attacking threat. Perhaps Reece Brown could come into the mix but that would give either Gleeson or Kieftenbeld added defensive responsibility and even less licence to go forward due to Brown’s physicality.

The final Blues debutant was loanee Jon Toral who impressed in a number ten role behind Clayton Donaldson. The Spaniard showed some neat touches as well as proving that he can score the goals from that position. He headed home a delightful ball in from Donaldson to put Blues 2-0 up. Toral’s arrival and impressive display gives Andy Shinnie added competition and the Scot may find it difficult to get into the side should the former Barcelona academy product continue to produce performances like this.

As for the rest of the team’s performance, Demarai Gray had a quiet afternoon as he saw little of the ball and struggled to make any attacking impact. David Cotterill opened the scoring through a deflected free kick but his performance was overall frustrating with the Welshman giving away possession too often. As usual, Clayton Donaldson lead the line extremely well against Michael Hector and experienced defender Paul McShane. He also provided a fine assist for the winning goal. The most impressive performer was definitely Jonathan Spector. The American looks to have formed a solid partnership with Michael Morrison and read the game quite brilliantly throughout without putting a foot wrong.

At the end of the day a win is a win and it doesn’t matter how you get the three points. It wasn’t the greatest performance from Rowett’s men but it is good to see that we can grind out those wins. The team saw the game out very well overcoming a lot of Reading pressure for most of the second half. Kuszczak’s heroics right at the death protected the three points and the majority of St Andrew’s went home happy.

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