Often Partisan

That Was The Season That Was Pt IV

In the fourth part of my season review, I take a look at February and March.

February began with the visit of Southampton to St Andrews in what was quite possibly the coldest game I’ve ever been to. The snow was hammering down, it was difficult to see across the pitch as a spectator so it was no surprise that the game ended goalless as neither team could really deal with the conditions. Three days later the Saints’ south coast rivals Pompey came to Blues and it looked like it was going to be stalemate once again before Nathan Redmond broke the deadlock with an exquisite volley for his fifth goal of an increasingly impressive season.

A third home game on the spin saw Blues draw with Hull City but Blues returned to winning ways away to Barnsley in a rescheduled game after it had previously been postponed at a controversially late time, winning 3-1 and climbing the table into third spot and thoughts of automatic promotion were now on the table amongst the optimists, despite the lack of left-sided options. However, things came back down to earth with a bump after a 2-1 home defeat to Forest – our only league defeat at home all season. I have to take the blame for that one partially because I’d confidently predicted a Blues win without remembering that I almost always put the mockers on things when I am confident.

Sandwiched between the games at Hull City and Barnsley was a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the FA Cup and a game in which Blues acquitted themselves marvellously, taking the lead through David Murphy early on. Doyle saved a Juan Mata penalty and in truth Blues could and maybe should have won the tie late on with Redmond hitting a chance straight at Cech when he could easily have buried it.

Blues cleverly played the loan market to their advantage, holding off on signing any players until they were sure that they could hold onto them until after the playoff final was finished. Erik Huseklepp was the first to arrive, on loan from financially-stricken Portsmouth with Andros Townsend arriving the next day having walked out on Neil Warnock at Leeds. Peter Ramage completed the loan trio signing from QPR on the last day of the month, and Blues supplemented those signings with the free transfers of Caleb Folan and Cian Hughton, both of whom signed a contract until the end of the season.

March began badly for Blues though, as it was confirmed on March 1 that due to the non-filing of accounts Blues were to be embargoed from signing any players. This went down badly with many Blues fans as people worried what else the league could do to the club with the continuing financial uncertainty. The club tried to allay fears by confirming that they were aware of the situation before it happened and thus had striven to conclude their business in the transfer market prior to the start of the month yet the embargo remains in place and the uncertainty continues.

On the pitch Blues began the month with a 2-2 draw with Derby County having let a two goal lead slip. Whilst Birmingham had done well in recovering from losing positions this tendency to let teams get back into games was becoming alarming and in the end probably cost us any chance we had of going up automatically. Blues then drew 1-1 away with Coventry in front of 5,000 away fans at the Ricoh with Marlon King scoring against his former club to cancel former Blues man Gary McSheffrey’s opener. A trip to the King Power stadium in Leicester saw another defeat for Blues – this time 3-1 and again after taking the lead and Blues started slipping back down out of the playoff picture as the amount of games seemed to tell on our weary squad. However Blues returned to winning ways with a 3-0 mauling of Middlesbrough, with Keith Fahey celebrating St Patrick’s day by scoring a belter of a goal running from his own half with the ball before burying it past the keeper.

However, the next game saw Blues heavily away to Pompey despite taking the lead – although it has to be said that by all accounts they were up against one of the most inept, atrocious refereeing performances of the season as a goal was allowed despite a clear handball and Murphy was sent off for an inocuous challenge, with Blues conceding two goals trying to chase the game. Blues drew 1-1 against Cardiff next but rounded the month off with a 3-1 demolition of Doncaster which pushed them up to third in the table.

Blues also faced Chelsea in the FA Cup at home at the start of the month in what was Roberto Di Matteo’s first match as interim head coach. Curiously enough, the Italian had applied for the Blues job in the summer but was rejected in favour of Hughton. Blues, who were severely depleted through injury and ineligibity at the time were forced to play Guirane N’Daw at left back and despite having a much weaker team made a good fist of it. Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners but not before Mata had another penalty saved by Doyle.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of the review, covering April and May.

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