FULHAM 1 BLUES 0
Birmingham City are traditionally slow starters and this afternoon’s trip to Craven Cottage was no different. After just 14 minutes of action they fell behind.
From the moment Sheyi Ojo gave Fulham the lead, there was a sense of it being game over. Blues struggle to score goals – bagging 10 in 20 games prior to today.
It was a feeling of dejavu for the fans who backed their team to the hilt – with over 4,500 in West London today – to be repaid with a measly two points on the road.
But the supporters are about the only thing of quality at the club right now.
It’s bizarre to think that Blues actually started the game in decent fashion. A couple of dangerous corners were won and eventually cleared before Ojo’s goal.
From then on, the first half offered plenty of huff and puff with very little quality.
The team sheet was a strange one. With Blues’ injury list outgrowing Schindler’s list, Steve Cotterill made a few bold and risky decisions. His insistence to stick with three centre backs despite losing Harlee Dean through suspension and Marc Roberts through injury stood out like a sore thumb.
Moving Jonathan Grounds inside to a central position was an obvious call but one would assume a four man defence would suffice given the circumstances. Selecting Josh Dacres-Cogley in a central defensive position was baffling. Not only was it his first start of the season, he was also horribly out of position.
Cotterill’s selection seemed to come from the Gianfranco Zola book of tactics and the first half was a throwback to the Italian’s time at the club but with much less attacking intent.
Fulham appeared to be there for the taking were in the opening 45 minutes yet Blues didn’t lay a single glove on their hosts and would have gone into the interval further behind but for an excellent David Stockdale save from Neeskens Kebano’s hooked effort.
Blues haven’t scored more than once away from home during this calender year and with just 34% posession and one shot in the first half, they trotted off to the dressing room knowing they had a mountain to climb.
Blues struggled to get going in the second half and once again had Stockdale to thank after yet another good save as the home side squandered a couple of half chances. Then, on the hour mark, Blues won a free kick 30 yards from goal which Jeremie Boga curled wide of the post.
Cotterill made his first change a few minutes later as Sam Gallagher replaced Lukas Jutkiewicz. But it was Fulham who continued to create the better chances – Ojo blazed over the bar from 12 yards after good work down the left by Ryan Sessegnon.
Blues struggled to string three passes together and carried very little threat. But with a quarter of an hour to go, Emilio Nsue was fouled in the area and the referee awarded a penalty. The spot kick was smashed hopelessly over the crossbar by Boga much to the frustration of the travelling fans.
Soon after, the visiting fans thought the ball had been turned in by Nsue but his header rippled the side netting.
Blues were beginning to create one or two openings. Another Stephen Gleeson corner was cleared before David Davis chipped his effort straight at the goalkeeper – their first shot on target in 170 minutes of football.
The Cottagers were successfully taking the sting out of the game and the affair turned scrappy with Davis picking up a cheap yellow card.
Time was running out for Blues who bought Jacques Maghoma on in place of Cohen Bramall. After another attack sloppily broke down, Stockdale pulled off another good save as Fulham caught Blues on the counter.
Blues won a corner two minutes into added time. Gleeson’s delivery was cleared before Maikel Kieftenbeld smashed a speculative effort way over the crossbar.
Blues hurriedly hoofed balls down the line for Gallagher and Boga to chase but it was so predictable for the Fulham defenders who snuffed out any danger.
And that was that. Birmingham City sit dangerously in the bottom three after another defeat on the road.
More away day woes for Blues
FULHAM 1 BLUES 0