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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Birmingham City (FA Cup)

By Ken Buckley :  23/01/2010 :  Comments (19) :

Euphoria and purring for two weeks then depression and grouchiness on the third week as we blow another route into Europe and two great days at Wembley due to a wretched first half display that saw the Blues believing their own hype and neglecting to win the battle first. The same team that looked so promising against City looked lacklustre and after the recent 1-1 against today’s opponents it seemed that McLeish had learned more than Moyes regarding the necessary ingredients, one being consistancy. The rapturous cheers that welcomed Arteta on his return via the bench were to be the only cheers of merit in that awful first half.

From the off Brum looked intent on closing us down in all the important areas and were willing to run and work to make breakaways that always had players in support. Only seven minutes in and the first breakaway saw a good move, that should have been ended by Baines, reach the head of the forward with the name ‘Benitez’ to put us one down. Surely now we must up our game but nothing tangible was forthcoming as although we had possession in our favour anything threatening was negligible. The visitors midfield especially Bowyer, Ferguson and Larsson ruled and if anything a second for the visitors looked the likelier.

With Bilyaletdinov and Donovan looking like they were still in the dressing room we capitalised on our greater possession with no more than long range efforts, one from Pienaar that had it been on target may have at least worked the keeper. Anxiously looking at the clock I was hoping we could go in just a goal down and let the manager have his rant and remind the players that the cup has to be fought for.

However from a free-kick for us in a dangerous position on the right which was taken by Baines who put in a trademark ‘hit the first man’ and allowed Brum to break and a flowing move that attacked the area Baines had left saw Larsson feed Ferguson who stepped over the ball and received the return from our old boy Faddy and calmly slotted past Howard. 2-0 down and my only consolation was the Spurs recovery but even that didn’t look likely as the boys were booed off at the break. That doesn’t help but you could understand the frustration.

The half time chat was solely concerned with how we could change it, who should come on for whom, could we turn it around? This was odd after the same players had outplayed City.

We got our answer Osman for Bilyaletdinov going centre mid and Pienaar resuming his wide left role. Yet it was the visitors who almost put the game to bed when that man Benitez was put through and but for a weak finish that allowed Howard to gather at his feet it would have been good-night. Osman started to make a difference and good play saw a Baines cross find the head of Donovan but his effort was neither on goal nor to a teammate.

Then with over half an hour to go Baines found Pienaar who went passed a player and found Osman on the edge of the box, he sized it up and curled beyond the keeper for an excellent finish. Now the volume turned up, could we salvage it? Well we gave it a good go but Birmingham stayed resolute and anything for us was going to have to be worked for.

We had chances but that all important iciness in front of goal was missing as Saha missed two presentable chances from near the penalty spot, Fellaini had one goal bound effort blocked by a diving defender and then referee Webb waved away a good shout for a pen for a tug and trip on Saha. Saha then decided it was not his day and asked to come off and trouped straight down the tunnel to be replaced by Vaughan who was soon putting himself about but it was all huff and puff and maybe’s.

With ten left the mercurial Mickey was introduced to wild applause and such is the wonders of sports injury science was an influence that made you wonder ‘What bad injury’? . We saw Fellaini shoot too close to Hart after he had made all the running himself then Vaughan have an acrobatic volley just miss and near the death Fellaini beat Hart with a shot across him to bring the groan of the game as it shaved the far post. Four mins of time added on brought nothing and at the whistle the ground as a whole was quiet as it reflected on our exit from this year’s FA Cup with little more than token resistance.

Overall I thought Birmingham deserved their win for it was they who took on the ‘Up for the cup’ mantle while we merely fiddled whilst Goodison burned. Today I thought we had players in Donovan and Bilyaletdinov who had little comprehension of domestic cup battles coupled with the site of Faddy routinely winning headers against Distin which might explain the loan of Senderos.

Many criticise Osman yet he was an influence that others could not match. Hibbert is often lampooned but this season I think his detractors have got the wrong full-back as Baines is an obvious weak link and teams have been quick to spot this. MotM was undoubtedly Ferguson but for the Blues Osman Fellaini Cahill and Heitinga looked the only cup battlers we had. The return of Arteta showed how much we miss him and we can only hope he has an injury free time.

We can now only move on and look for a high finish and some success in the Europa league. Cup-ties are always like this as it’s on the day that matters and today we failed to meet the demand but I believe we have a squad that if it can find consistency and not believe its own hype after just a few good performances then we can have a good second half to the season.

Sunderland on Wednesday and I hope we have learned that teams just don’t lie down at Goodison, we have to win the battle and earn the right to strut our stuff. See you there.

UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Yusuf Bobat
1   Posted 23/01/2010 at 22:51:47

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Truth is Moyes is a good manager but will never be a great one.

We will remain trophyless under Moyes!!!
Ian McDowell
2   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:07:42

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Yea, good report, Ken. I was thinking I was the only person to think of Baines as a weak link — consistently poor delivery from set pieces... and that shocking cross just before half time that required a low driven ball when there were players queuing up.
Ian Kearney
3   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:09:27

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Saha has been very poor lately, Vaughan gave the Birmingham centre halves more of a fight in the 20 mins he was on than Saha could be bothered to do in his time on the pitch.

If it is true he is demanding £60k a week, then I say let someone else pay it to this part timer, I would also start Vaughan on Wednesday.
Colin Malone
4   Posted 23/01/2010 at 22:54:09

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Saha asking to come off? Well fuck him right off.

We were getting so much space on the right but Neville was not taking advantage...
COLEMAN, COLEMAN, COLEMAN.

Can anyone tell me why he is not getting 90 mins?

Tony Dove
5   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:15:51

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Could write a book on what was wrong today but, if we gave the likes of Bily, Donovan and Distin their passports back, it would be a step in the right direction.

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, I heard the news Senderos was on his way...

Matt Traynor
6   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:49:29

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Senderos was in the crowd. Missus looked presentable though!

After Distin’s performance, he’ll be thinking, "I’ll walk straight in".
Mickey Dee
7   Posted 23/01/2010 at 23:52:30

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Saha asked to come off?? How do we know this? If it is true then I can only surmise it was because he felt an injury, which is no cause for criticism. I don’t think it is right to cast aspersions on players' commitment to the cause.

Ken, don’t you think football is about moments, not 90 minutes, and we failed to take advantage of the ’moments’ we had while Birmingham took theirs.

A game of football is not science, it is a game about decision making: the player on the ball, his teammates’ off-the-ball movement, the defenders’ positional decision. Is it not just the case that, as in all football matches, the team that make the better decisions at crucial moments is the team more likely to score goals and therefore win the game?
Lin Jinli
8   Posted 24/01/2010 at 03:26:10

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What a hoofball game by Everton last nite, no way to match with Birmingham City.

Saha is a joke man, he did not do much out there, somehow Moyes played a high push line last nite, and that causes the goal as our defenders were slow in running back......
Brian Noble
9   Posted 24/01/2010 at 09:03:17

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Word has it that virtually all the players have this week demanded an immediate salary uplift to compensate for the forthcoming increase in top tier tax. It showed!
Mickey Dee
10   Posted 24/01/2010 at 13:27:52

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Why do people bother posting these ’word has it’ posts?

Michael, it's 2009-10 now, lad!!
Gareth Hughes
11   Posted 24/01/2010 at 14:08:01

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A couple of observations; 1st. Ken got a little muddled with his match report. A poor Baines free kick led to Birmingham's first goal, not second. Indeed, I would say that that free kick and therefore Leighton Baines were to blame for our cup exit.

However, despite Baines’s mistake, he did create our goal and the difference between the potency of him and Pienaar down the left compared with Neville/Hibbert and Osman/Donovan down the right is glaring. I would suggest Ken that you have a little bit of a blind spot for Hibbert and Osman if you think that those players merit a place in the Everton side more than Baines. The football that he produces with Pienaar is the standard we should aspire to. The days of putting up with Hibbert's limited scuffling should be behind us. Maybe Ken is another of those fans who forgets just how good we once were. A time when Hibbert would not have got a job cleaning the team coach.

The other problem that stood out yesterday was the lack of pace in the team. When a team sits back and allows you to come at them you need something a little bit different. We don’t have that and needed it 5 years ago. Finally, Saha doesn’t look interested to me and Cahill just doesn't look up to it anymore.

Mike Green
12   Posted 24/01/2010 at 16:15:15

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Credit to Birmingham, in my view, they came and did a job on us. We had our chances to pull the game back and didn't take them, so we’re out. End of.

Never ceases to amaze me that on this site last week Donovan and Bily were being lauded as world beaters when, in my view, they met but didn't exceed expecations.

No 1 priority is to nail Pienaar down on a contract he deserves which the club can afford — he’s earnt it, and if we can't afford him then unfortunately we’ll just have to let him go.

I’d echo that I’d really like to see Coleman get a proper crack rather than a cameo but Pip is our captain and I honestly think he’s one of the only real leaders we have in the side so needs to be on the pitch.

As for Tim — I love him to bits but this season it just doesn't seem to be happeneing for him.

Let's get back on track on Wednesday. COYB!
Alistair Strachan
13   Posted 24/01/2010 at 16:38:02

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Another good summary, Ken — pretty much agree with all you say. I certainly think McLeish would appear to have learned more from the recent league game than Moyes...

In the 1-1 match, we were excellent for 20 minutes then abysmal for 70. We played yesterday’s first 45 in the same woeful mode.Their centre-back pairing were having a field day against a prolonged diet of hoofball and it was only later in the 2nd half, with Fellaini pushed forward and Vaughan on for the subdued Saha, that we pushed them back and exerted sustained pressure.

Credit to Birmingham for two well worked goals (despite the legitimate criticism of aspects of our defending, we have conceded much sloppier goals this season and McFadden’s return flick to Ferguson on their second was a thing of beauty).

I happen to agree with Ken re Baines... when he has an off-day, he absolutely stinks the place out. Distin, for me, looks less convincing each time I see him.

Best aspect of yesterday was the surprising but very welcome retyrn of the best little Spaniard we know. A sublime cameo augurs so well for the weeks to come... Onwards and Upwards, and 6 points in the next 2 league games will have the cup forgotten about nicely. COYB

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
14   Posted 24/01/2010 at 17:20:11

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Uh?... what? "Word has it" Brian Noble penned that — not me!!!

[Asssuming I’m the unfortunate one who is angel-like (er... NOT!) to which you refer...]

I do know what season it is... what’s your point, Mickey lad?
Steve Higham
15   Posted 24/01/2010 at 18:37:23

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Felt so let down after the match. Feel we have missed out on a real opportunity to go back to Wembley, especially after seeing the draw. When are we ever going to learn that we have to apply ourselves fully over 90 mins? The opposition are not going to roll over for us... we have to learn to earn the right to play our football. Hopefully next two games we can get back on track and the team can show us they can apply themselves fully.
COYB
Pete Sullivan
16   Posted 24/01/2010 at 18:50:35

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When you stick to writing the report, it’s ok, but your comment on Baines being a weak link compared to Hibbert suggest you have serious lack of sensible judgement. Hibbert can’t jump, can’t pass, has no pace, has poor reading of the game, can’t cross, and certainly can’t shoot and by definition is still light years away from scoring.

Also, before giving out stick to Baines, did you see Neville lah de dahing and strolling back into the box when Birmingham scored their first? Yeah it wasn’t a great free kick, but we had 7 blue shirts against 2 for that first goal and it was a collective failure.

Also I would much rather have defenders who can make runs and pass and cross and shoot to enable us to score more goals and play good attacking footbal than proverbial "solid defenders". How long do you think it would take Hibbert to learn the technique Baines used to bamboozle Carr for the goal? Answer he will never ever ever be capable of learning that skill level.

The sooner Coleman makes his bones and gets that first team RB slot to give us the same attacking options on both flanks, the better... and the better entertainment for us all.

Mickey Dee
17   Posted 24/01/2010 at 21:17:59

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Nothing ontoward Michael, It’s just that the heading on ’Columns’ states 2008/09. Just a little bit of housekeeping required!
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
18   Posted 24/01/2010 at 21:22:47

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Ah... Thank you! These thing are so hard to catch; we literally have to visit almost every webpage on the site manually at the beginning of the season, looking for these deliberately, and still they get through...

Appreciated.

David Ellis
19   Posted 25/01/2010 at 07:07:17

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I am as gutted as the next man about this result. The players did not perform in the first half - and we did not do enough to recover. Birmingham are a tough team. We are better. We just did not show it over the 90 minutes.

Aiyaah

However two points to note
(1) I have never been a fan of James Vaughan — but he showed a few flashes on Saturday which makes me think we should hang on to him. In particular the spectaular volley that went just over the bar and a few other good touches as well. I think he could be a decent long-term impact sub (and perhaps a bit more).

(2) Arteta — after about 5 minutes on the pitch it was noticeable about how all the other 21 players on the pitch deferred to him. Everton players were looking for him all the time. Birmingham players stood off him. Not attempting to close him down because they know he can easily draw a free kick. This is how to beat the pressing game. High quality fast midfielders who can run past the holding midfielders trying to close them down.

Although Arteta’s use of the ball was understandably rusty, his sheer presence was comparable to that of Peter Reid. Able to control the pace of the game by sheer force of personalitiy. Astonishing. Particulalry as he has not played for a year and came on as a sub in the last 15 minutes in a hell-for-leather cup-tie. Astonishing.

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