Often Partisan

Blues v Derby Match Reflections

Birmingham City held Derby County to their fourth successive league draw in front of an electric atmosphere at St Andrew’s. Stephen Gleeson’s deflected 30 yard effort was cancelled out by Johnny Russell half way through the second half as Blues improved vastly on the result against the same team last season.

A very good performance

There was a point during the game where I thought to myself that if Blues could play like this all season they would be certs to go up. Intricate link-up play, tigerish tackles and purposeful runs combined to create a team that looked dangerous going forwards and in control for large periods at the back.

The problem is that Blues couldn’t keep up that level of performance for 90 minutes, let alone 46 games. After the equaliser it was more a case of clinging on, with Tomasz Kuszczak making up for a couple of sloppy errors early on with a quite brilliant save, changing direction on the ground to push the ball onto the post.

The new guys

This was the first time that I had seen Tomasz Kuszczak, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Jon Toral and Jacques Maghoma play in the flesh. In the main each of the starters impressed me in different ways and look like decent signings by Gary Rowett.

Kuszczak kinda reminds me of Ian Bennett. Benno was an excellent shot stopper who nevertheless wasn’t the best at catching crosses and always had a potential ricket in him and Kuszczak is very similar. There was a moment in the first half where David Cotterill fell over allowing Derby to break into the box on the right hand side and although Kuszczak made a good save from close range he pushed the ball back out towards the penalty spot where it was only through the efforts of Jonathan Grounds against Darren Bent that Blues didn’t concede. Yet the save as on the clip above shows that he really can make a difference.

Kieftenbeld is a very interesting midfielder. Not all his passes found their target but he was confident to sweep the ball across the pitch to try and switch the play; he looked to slide the ball into Toral and Donaldson to get attacks started and he was very tigerish in the tackle. I think as he grows into the English game he could be a very, very useful acquisition.

I don’t think Toral is an attacking midfielder – and I think this is going to work well for us. It struck me he played closer to Donaldson than Shinnie or Fabbrini would – and that sort of deep lying forward role means he will score more goals (as already evidenced). I liked the way he interchanged with Gray and Cotterill to keep the attacking three fluid and to force the Derby backline into remaining on their toes against different threats.

I didn’t see enough of Jacques Maghoma to really get an impression – but he does look like he could provide an option off the bench. I’ll be interested to see how he copes when he’s drafted into start games as the season progresses.

The negatives

There aren’t many – but the chief one for me is that I’m still concerned about the size of the squad. I know Rowett doesn’t think that he needs a bigger squad but with the team looking tired after 65 minutes (despite not playing in midweek) I am concerned that it’s going to last 46 games.

I’ve heard Blues are looking for more of a cup run from Rowett but I really do want to see a few changes for the Gillingham game – including looking at one or two younger players. There is no doubt we will suffer from injuries and suspensions and I think it’s important that Rowett knows he can rely on the younger players to plug gaps in the squad – what better time to see how they can adapt than a match against lower league opposition? Even if they come on off the bench, I’d like to see Alex Jones, Charlee Adams and Reece Brown given a run.

After three games I didn’t think we’d be in the position we are – particularly with the opposition we had first up. It’s obviously a work in progress but the truth is Blues look like they are continuing to improve on last year. Long may it continue.

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74 Responses to “Blues v Derby Match Reflections”

  • StaffsBlue says:

    With each game, the same thing has come to mind. Because we concede so much possession, the team are having to work twice as hard to regain possession and then break at speed. Is it any wonder the players are fooked after an hour? I also think this is contributing to us playing deeper and deeper as the game goes on. Just for once, when we take the lead, I’d like to see us go for it and put the opposition to the sword.. then maybe we can relax a bit and still have plenty in the take to complete the game comfortably. We could also do with learning to concentrate for 90+ minutes.

    I believe we are this close to being a very good team.. we should actually be sitting top this morning.

      • atko says:

        I agree Staff although last night we could have killed that game off long before half time. The problem wasn’t so much creating the chances as taking them. The Don could have had a first half hat trick & Toral should have scored at least one too. We have to start taking chances in order to take pressure off the defence, as you say, particularly in the latter quarter of the game. The problem with the Don is he is always going to miss quite a few before he scores which can be frustrating when defensively we are put under so much pressure. Obviously nobody can fault his work load though. Gotta hope that Toral continues to chip in & Gray & Cotterill get going too soon. If one or two others can chip in from midfield we might be okay.

        A few times last night when we did attack at pace we had everyone flying forward & then when we lost possession we were stretched at the back. I’d like to see a bit more composure going forward at times. I hear that Shinnie was told to shoot more this term yet with Gleeson’s efforts of the last two games I think GR has told anyone to have a go if they are within a reasonable range. Could be a few contenders for goal of the season hopefully this year! :) All in all though the two things we need to concentrate more on are composure going forward & concentration defensively. If we can get a bit of consistency in those two things we’ll have a good season me thinks.

  • Tony E says:

    All credit to Gary, we are facing teams who have players who cost millions whilst our team cost very little. What we are achieving is thanks to the organisation and planning. Long may it continue.

  • Bluesfan says:

    Frustrating blues play some good football for 15/20 minutes then they resort to hoofing the the ball anywhere for the rest of the game. It’s as though the plan is to go hell for leather for 15 minutes if that don’t work hope for the best they need to pace themselves then they won’t be so tired for the second half.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I’ve seen all 4 games this season and we look a good footballing side and if the form continues we WILL be pushing for the playoffs no danger BUT as staffs said we seem knackered after an hour and can’t push on from our first half performances ….look forward to seeing the Brock Tuesday night in the cup and see what he brings to the table .. We’re a centre half away from supprising a lot of fans and teams this season and I for one am looking forward to it . Kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I’ve actually been impressed by some of our forward play, it’s very easy on the eye. But as you said, if that doesn’t work, we seem to lose something. We had the same problem early last season, when we were outplaying teams early in the match, but throwing it away in the second half. What we need is to capitalise on our early chances. As Rowett himself said, if Toral had put his chance away, we’d have been 2-0 up and Derby probably wouldn’t have come back. I think if we start to do that, this could be a very good season.

      • steve says:

        I think you’re showing Derby a lack of respect staffs. 2 0 wouldn’t have finished them off. They were a very good side. We’re unbeaten and played 2 of the sides that will be there abouts at the end of the season. a very good start for us,better than i expected.

    • atko says:

      He won’t be playing according to BBC…..apparently they say “Speaking after Blues’ 1-1 draw with Derby on Friday, manager Gary Rowett told BBC Sport: “We’re hoping to get international clearance for him early in the week.” If that’s the case he might be available for us to take a look at him from the bench for the MK Dons game I’d guess.

    • ChrisG says:

      Dave we’ve only played 3 games so far this season!!!!

  • Steve says:

    Good piece. I thought Kieftenbeld & Gleeson were outstanding. Derby had chances but with their quality they are going to. Have to pick you up on the Ian Bennett comparison..for me Benno’s big strength was his consistancy. I can count on one hand the number of rickets he made throughout his whole time here. Great shot-stopper who knew his catching limitations and allowed his centre-halfs to deal with.

  • Mike ware says:

    We don’t hoof the ball and we came back well towards the end of first half after Derby had a good spell

  • Bluebalders says:

    I agree there’s been loads of positives about our start, and the work rate of the players is phenomenal. I have watched all 3 league games though thinking the same thing every time – that I’m concerned about how we need to “hang on” for the last half hour or so, and more concerned about the cumulative effect that this will have as the season progresses.
    The players give their all every game, and for that they and GR deserve enormous credit. Like so many others though I think that the players’ technical limitations, and especially the centre half situation both invite pressure that could cause a debilitating run of results, and if that happens GR will face a test that he and the players have so far, to their credit, not had to face.
    Really it’s ridiculous given our resources vs those of others that we are even thinking of exiting this league from the “right” end, but that’s how well our team and management team have done….

    • atko says:

      To be fair, I think the tiredness is due to a lack of competitive matches as a team. Remember we have only played 3 games. I think the players fitness levels will improve over the next 3 or 4 games when we are up to speed.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    First of all I thought it was a very exciting game and a great advert for Championship football.
    Blues played as good as I have seen for many a year in the first half.
    The second half was a struggle. Mainly because Blues couldn’t retain possession long enough to give Derby problems.
    Blues have to knock the ball around, even back to the goalkeeper if necessary and keep possession when leading to disrupt sides such as Derby.

  • Art says:

    With a little bit of investment before the transfer deadline we could be a serious contender for the play offs this season.At the moment I don’t think the squad is strong enough for the final push in March.?

  • Tony says:

    Problem is the way we play we are very unlikely to score more than 1 goal, that means we have to keep the opposition out for however long that takes I’m not keen on this system and would like to see two up top, it would occupy the opposition defence at least.

    • atko says:

      The system we play does work. Admittedly it relies heavily on the Don to hold the ball up & supporting midfielders to push on to swing the game back in our favour. If he loses possession then the ball is only going to come back. Donaldson is the best in the league for his role but as I have said elsewhere in this thread we need a little more composure when we turn defence in to attack because throwing too many bodies forward leaves us stretched at the back as happened a few times last night.

  • rhees says:

    All I can say is I’m very happy with start and performances
    See how we can keep it up wont be easy

  • rhees says:

    Poor old Daren randolf 16 goals in 3 games against Bournemouth never rated him glad he’s gone much better keepers now
    Looking good

    • Blue lizard says:

      Not a bad week end.. unbeaten and more points than I thought we would have by now..and Scott Dann scores against the Shite to ruin their weekend…

    • atko says:

      Randolph did well for Blues, he’s not a bad keeper. To be fair, just watched the highlights of todays game & he pulled off some really good saves. It’s rare to concede 4 goals & say he didn’t stand a chance with any of them but he really didn’t! If it wasn’t for him, WH would have probably conceded 8 against them, their defence was awful!!

      • StaffsBlue says:

        And for some unfathomable reason…. they think Rob Green will solve all their goalkeeping problems! lmao

        • Tony says:

          How on earth Green got to where he has baffles me, he is ordinary at best bloody awful at worst . To think he has England caps is ridiculous.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            In the last 5 years or so, he’s been very dubious. But, to be fair to the bloke, he looked a real prospect when he was at Norwich. But look at some of the defences he’s played behind since… it’s enough to derail any keeper’s career.

  • Mitchell says:

    Main reason for the surrender of leads we initially get is simply down to our quality of ‘holding players’. This is no criticism, it is where we are and what we have. Against Reading, Burnley and Derby the pattern was exactly the same. Only Kuszak penalty save enabled us to secure the points. We simply cannot see a game out by quality players keeping the ball. We just don’t have them. Good, honest and committed they certainly are. To win future games, we do need a two goal cushion for 75% of the game.

  • Jazzzy786 says:

    Great game and we were excellent against the bookies favourites to go up. Either side could’ve won it so a draw was a fair result. I was disappointed with Grays crossing and free kicks and our shooting was abysmal. Lets hope the new striker can show these guys how to finish. Our players kept on shooting straight at their keeper. I think it was Alan Shearer who said he always aimed for the far corner out of the reach of the keeper. Defensively we looked much better. I share your concerns with regards to the small squad. Gillingham are top of League 1 and will be no pushovers so GR will rotate the squad slightly like he did in LCR1 I hope he plays Brock, Brown and Adams but I can’t see past

    Legzdins, Eardley, Robbo, Morrison, Hancox, Davis,Gleeson, Maghoma, Brown, Arthur, Thomas

    • atko says:

      As I said earlier, GR told BBC Sport after last nights game, that they “hope to get International clearance early next week” so I suspect he won’t feature on Tuesday. Dan says GR has been told the board are looking for a good cup run so whilst he might tinker with the team a little bit, I doubt he would risk a player that has probably only been introduced to his team mates that day let alone not even trained with them. I think we could see a lot of the first team simply because they have lacked the ability to last a full game which I think is down to a lack of competitive game time as a team. We have only played 3 games so the sharpness won’t be quite there yet.

  • stevio11 says:

    Had to watch on sky last night but enjoyed the game agansit a team that will be up there at the end of the season. Remember they thrashed us 4-0 last season so this was a massive improvement. I am still worried about the defence and hoping our new forward can put a bit of pressure on clayton who I think is taking it a bit too easy compared with last season

    • Blue lizard says:

      i thought Donaldson ran his socks off yet again.. He is playing virtually upfront on his own often caught with his back to goal because he has to go looking for the ball because as said the crossing was poor.. I would question if gray is. A cert to start every game he disappears for spells and gets bundled off to easily for me.. And I don’t like seeing a player sitting on the ground ffs get back up straight away!!!!

      • StaffsBlue says:

        I agree with all that. Donaldson might score a few more goals if he didn’t have to go chasing all over the pitch. The same happened with Jerome. Long balls banged into the channels and no bugger in the middle for him to pass/cross to. The lone striker role is hard enough, without having to do the wingers’ role too. I think once he gets off the mark, we’ll see a different player, like last season.

        As for Gray, sorry, but still not impressed. Still no end product. I’d like to see Maghoma given a go.

        • atko says:

          Agreed Staff…..LITERALLY all over the pitch, he can be found in our penalty area when we defend corners too. I don’t think there is a Blues player that puts in his work rate. If the defence concentrated & applied the same work rate we’d be laughing!

        • Tony says:

          Have been saying that for ages Staffs ,Donaldson is doing far too much work you cant expect him to be prolific when he’s spending most of his time chasing down the channels.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            Absolutely. I know he misses a lot of chances, but I think he’d score a lot more if he could face the goal more.

  • Trevor J says:

    I’ve only seen the televised games but they seem to bemuch improved on last season.
    Kuszak reminds me slightly of Jim Herriot in the seventies who also had patches of brilliance but scared me to death when he came out for crosses, mind you he got into the Scotland team and had a string of vet books named after him (honestly) so he cant be that bad!

    • Tmsblues says:

      Birmingham has generally had a remarkable record of having and or schooling high quality goalies. There areTwo memorable dodgy goalies Herriot was one a scots international, and Gary Sprake was the other who was Wales no. 1 . Unfortunately I think we have just acquired no. 3 a Polish international. He stops shots but pushes the ball back to forwards, he slaps and flaps at most everything and is a constant worry. Yes he saved that penalty which turned him from zero to hero because up until then he had been awful. I think and hope we will se Legzdins in before long.

  • Mitchell says:

    It is now becoming a regular topic as to the contribution of Gray. Difficult for GR I know with the desire to start him in each game, but the time is now right for him to contribute more. Every time his name appears on the team sheet I am getting the 10 men plus passenger feeling. He is young but how long can we keep saying that. Bournemouth who turned to Max Gradel and Redmond of Norwich use their talents and importantly brains on the pitch. What I see is a very frail lad not reading the game and not really able to use any of his undoubted talents. New boy Brock should start by getting crosses from Gray on a regular basis-but sadly I don’t see it. Last chance I feel for Gray will be against MK Dons.

    • Hillfield Blues says:

      Agreed. Living off his dwindling reputation at the moment. Blues can’t afford to carry players and apart from a few moments in all 3 games,he has gone missing.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Every game, I just keep thinking, what has he actually done, except a few runs and the odd step-over? If he set up goals, or put in telling crosses, it would be different. Sorry, but no way has he earned an automatic place in the team imo.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I’ve already said that Gray as been the major let down so far but for what my opinions worth I don’t think we’re see the best of him until after the window closes because of the still transfer rumours even after signing is new contract , unprofessional I know but I think he will be given a bit longer in the team than Mk dons but we’re wait and see . Kro

  • Bluenosesol says:

    Some wonderful first touch passing to build from the back and some quality individual performances. Strange that our biggest problems are the back four, yet they were effect enough to see of Darren Bent. Lots of positives and hope for the rest of the season. Big negative is that nearly avery goal we have conceded this season has involved statuesque full back play (Caddis., Grounds) and so many passes in the final third going straight to our opponents. All in all though so excited and couldnt wait until the end of the International break to see the Blues in the league again so had to buy tickets to see us wop the Dons! KRO!!

  • Dave Mann says:

    There above us and started very well , should be a cracker next Saturday and I for one can’t wait! Kro

  • What a difference a year makes! So proud of the blues right now! Last year we shipped 4 in against an excellent derby side. GR has been a breath of fresh air alongside panos. We are only a central defender short of a very good side. Just a few weeks ago there was a lot of doom mongers on here berating the fact that rowett had failed to sign tesche an fabrinni. He has once again pulled the rabbit out the hat and brought in my opinion better players in Keithenbeld and toral. The football blues are playing is fluid and every player seems to be able to read each others games perfectly. I can’t remember the last time I saw a blues team move the ball around like they have in the previous 2 games against two of the bookies favourites for automatic promotion as well. I think the blues have their very own special one in rowett. But that’s where the comparison ends for me. Rowett is doing it on a shoe string unlike the big headed mouriniho who has had pots of cash at his disposal. Hopefully cotts will sign a new contract then after that if I was panos I would be looking to offer rowett a longterm contract as I’m sure his exceptional work has not gone unnoticed and how long will it be before a club with more spending power are willing to take a punt on GR?

  • Dave Mann says:

    Fans are very fickle .. Ime just glad that ime not one of them … Those that are need educating . Kro

  • steve says:

    Not fickle.Just that some fans don’t don’t see everything through blue and white eyes.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Or don’t know what there seeing at all ! KRO

  • Mitchell says:

    My start the week wish is for Wes Harding to get the CH nod tomorrow against Gillingham to replace Morrison. Not because I am a great fan of Harding but to simply protect our prized asset from getting bloody injured. Want full strength team against MK with 2week break after that. Lovely to be in a commanding position during that break.

  • Dave Mann says:

    It will be Robbo but ime with you Mitchell and it should be Harding but Rowetts loyal to his squad and with Gillingham topping league one we have to play a reasonably strong side though MK Dons is very much the prime game and a full strength side must be available for that game with Blues taking a few thousand there with a bank holiday coming up but looking forward to seeing the Brock tomorrow because I don’t think there’s any reason that he won’t start or come from the bench . Kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      With our centre back situation, he’d be mad to risk Morrison again.. so I think it will be Spector and Robbo. I’d like to see Reece Brown given a shot, alongside maybe Davis or Dutch Mike. I’d also put Gray on the right, bring Maghoma in on the left and the new boy up front. We can keep the big boys on the bench just in case.

  • bluegirl says:

    Just my simple observation, but two or three seasons ago there used to be really good link up play between Caddis and Burke, great overlaps, but Cotts doesn’t seem to want receive or pass to Cadds. It would give us just that little bit more width if there was greater understanding. In truth, tho, I’m loving what I am seeing at the moment, and the atmosphere on Friday bore out what a really entertaining game it was. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time !!! KRO

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Cotterill isn’t that kind of winger. He prefers to play on the left, where he can cut inside and shoot. That’s his game, always has been. That’s why I think we should try Gray on the right, with Maghoma on the left.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        Why keep insisting on messing around with the team when we are doing absolutely fine. Gray is a young kid who needs time to learn how to play his position and he has worked hard on the defensive side of his game this season. Teams are very aware of his pace now and he has got to learn how to deal with being tightly marked and being doubled up on. As I have said before if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Surely the benefits of consistency of selection and not making unnecessary changes are clear now.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          A few changes won’t hurt. It freshens things up. Also, if other players don’t get a chance, what’s the point of having them? As Rowett himself has said on more than one occasion, if players don’t get a chance, they’ll become a bit disheartened. It’s human nature. At the end of the day, it’s down to opinion. Yours differs from mine… but what’s new.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    According to bcfc.com, Viv Solomon-Otabor has not been included in the Blues Development Squad to travel to Bolton. He has been handed a First Team squad number (No.17) with a view to participation in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie at home to Gillingham. Good news, I hope he gets a chance at least.

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