After a disappointing mid-week defeat to Wigan, where once again Blues were punished for making an avoidable mistake, we got back to winning ways in front of the Sky cameras against Middlesbrough on Friday night.
In one of our best performances of the season, everything seemed to click for Blues. We played the type of football that I think our owners want us to play, utilising summer recruits and players that have come through our academy to earn a much-deserved three points.
We dominated possession, created chance after chance (we had more shots then any other championship team over the weekend), and looked comfortable transitioning from defence to attack.
Jude’s more central position alongside Sunjic, perhaps playing slightly more attackingly than the Croatian, suited him well, and for a 16 and 22-year old to boss the game as overwhelmingly as they did was astounding.
Jude’s creativity coupled with Sunjic’s ability to always be in the right place at the right time to break up the opponents’ attack looks to be a good partnership.
Villalba and Crowley on the wings looked – as ever – confident and comfortable on the ball, both linking with our full backs and strikers, with the former scoring a well-worked goal on 33 minutes.
The frustrating aspect of the game was the poor conversion of chances into goals. We hit the woodwork two or three times, and Randolph played superbly to frustrate his former employers.
The longer the game went on with only a one goal lead, every Blues fan was waiting for the inevitable equaliser, which came three minutes from time.
But despite all the flair that we now seem to have, it’s good to see that the keep right on mentality has been instilled in the new players. Two minutes after the equaliser, Crowley held the ball just outside the box on the right for what felt like an eternity, before whipping it in for academy-graduate Odin Bailey to score his debut goal for Blues, in front of a packed out Tilton.
The place erupted, we held on for the win, and go into another international break on a high, sitting firmly in a mid-table position.
It’s always hard to tell when a team is so in charge of a game whether one team was so good or the other was so bad. Usually, as was the case on Friday, it’s a bit of both.
Pep had been a bit under the cosh following three defeats on the spin for Blues, so it was nice to see the players come out fighting for the manager. The players didn’t appear to have any added pressure on their shoulders, everyone knew where they were playing, and there were some nice link-ups across the pitch (especially Crowley and Colin on the right).
Middlesbrough looked poor, void of all confidence and struggling to get the ball out of their own half for much of the game. Fair play to Randolph, who despite conceding two goals had a decent game. We’ll face tougher challenges than this, I’m sure.
Two weeks off for the international break, then we’re straight back into it with three games in a week: Leeds away, followed by Blackburn then Luton at home.
The rumours about Pep’s imminent departure seem to have been put on hold following Friday’s win. With a system that (albeit for one game against a poor side) appears to work, two weeks to drill it into the players is welcome.
We won our first game back after the last international break 1-0 away at Charlton. Let’s hope we can do the same on 19 October at Elland Road.
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC