Jeez, that was bliddy hard work! After giving away our customary comedy goal – courtesy of a really weak challenge from Rozehnal – we were a tad fortunate to snag all 3 points when most had already settled for one.
Played in atrocious conditions, the game was littered with errors and poor passing, and in truth more came from the black ‘n whites than Brum. Having said that, we created more scoring opportunities than Brum, especially in the 1st half so perhaps deserved a touch of good fortune.
Perhaps understandably, I thought we began to run out of steam in the 2nd half, and allowed Birmingham to get on top for uncomfortable spells, but tbh they didn't actually create too many chances and Given didn't really have a lot to do. To their credit, the Toon kept going and bagged a late winner for their efforts.
I actually thought our 2nd half problems stemmed from Butt's substitution. This lead to Viduka and Smith playing up front with Martins wide right. Martins' body language betrayed his disenchantment with this arrangement, and tbh he was about as useful as a man short.
This formation left us short-handed in m/f, and I was amazed BSA left it so long to substitute Geremi with Emre, pushing Martins up front and pulling Smith back into m/f. This stiffened things considerably. I thought McCleish's decision to take off Gary McSheffrey also helped, as I thought he was controlling the game at that point – he's a canny player this lad.
My MOTM was N'Zogbia who was dangerous going foward. Milner had a decent game, and is actually now linking well with Zog, but he invariably has to pull the ball onto his right foot, and too many of his crosses went straight to their keeper. Mind he was unfortunate to crash a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
Defensively, we made a few basic errors, but goal apart, didn't do too badly. I suspect Brum's lack of real ambition contributed to our relative comfort in this area. Taylor had another decent game, and Beye continues to improve.
Our relative success v Arsenal was based on getting control in m/f – something we were never able to achieve today. It became a massive struggle, but I give them credit for keeping going right to the end. Beye showed his good fitness levels by powering forward at the death, winning the vital corner, and being in the right place to put it away.
Three hard-earned points, against a decent team, which further alleviates the accumulated pressure.
a verdict by: Clarky