The 27th of February is a date that all Blues will hold dear to their heart for the rest of their lives. 10 years on from THAT day and it couldn’t be more different, instead of lifting a major honour, Blues were looking to try and kick-start a run to pull themselves clear from dropping down into the 3rd tier, against a QPR side who found themselves in a good vein of form and coming off some pretty impressive results.
Blues were in desperate need of something to spark a difference today, 2 wins at home all season and 3 draws to go with it spells out relegation form, so that needed to change and quickly.
Neither team came out swinging haymakers and were happy to just ease themselves into the game. However, Blues enjoyed a lot more of the ball and were moving it round with confidence and energy levels which has been very few and far between this season. The QPR tactic looked clear, allow Blues to have the ball in front of them and try to catch them on the break, something Aitor Karanka and his side have struggled against this season.
Blues created a few half opportunities through getting the ball wide and whipping it into the box, however nothing clear cut did come, other than a wayward Scott Hogan header. Shortly after a ball over the QPR fullback found Bela inside the box, but his near-post drive was met by the keeper and turned behind for a corner.
It was becoming an increasingly frustrating half and it didn’t get any better; a rare QPR attack saw Todd Kane whip a ball across Blues six yard box and who was there to tap home? Charlie Austin, of course. Given the freedom of Bordesley to put the ball in the back of the net and with that came half time and a lot to ponder.
Blues have only picked up 1 point from a losing position this season (Rotherham at home, thanks to a late penalty). So it would be easy to think that today wasn’t going to go any other way than QPR coming away with 3 points. The start of the second half wasn’t as enjoyable as the first, Blues looked rattled and couldn’t settle on the ball and create any sort of openings.
The first opening did come thanks to a set piece, which somehow Bela managed to miss at the near post and within seconds QPR were on the break and somehow blazed over the bar from 10 yards out, a huge let off and could that have been the turning point and bit of motivation Blues needed to wake up?
QPR were the first to make some changes, taking the goalscorer off and appearing to set themselves up to be even harder to beat. It wasn’t long till Karanka decided to follow suit and made some changes of his own, everyone’s favourite time of the game…
A triple substitution saw Clarke-Salter, Bela and Gardner make way for; Marc Roberts, Jonathan Leko and Alen Halilovic. There was no doubt some creativity was needed for Blues to try and turn this game around, but the centre back substitute left a few scratching their head, including my own. Truth be told Blues never really settle and got going after the initial subs and they never looked like getting back into the game, which may have been why Karanka decided to make use of the extra subs rule and bring Lukas Jutkiewicz into the fray.
Time was ticking and it looked like the game was getting away from Blues, because no matter what they tried it was coming to nothing. Just like that and out of nowhere, the standard long throw in from Marc Roberts didn’t come to fruition, but the ball did make its way back to him to deliver a peach of a ball into the box which was met by Kristian Pedersen who slammed it home. Game on. Surely not?
It would have been easy for Blues to shut up shop from here and take the point, with others around them losing, however this was a game that was there to be one and my god did they do that. Halilović received the ball from the right hand side and found himself on the edge of the box and within one movement, curled a cultured effort into the keepers bottom corner. Turnaround complete and total shock for everyone connected with Blues, probably Karanka himself too.
That goal was followed by an additional 5 minutes of added time, to which QPR never really threatened to find the equaliser and spoil the afternoon for Blues, but we don’t half make it hard for ourselves, as always.
The final whistle came and with it a first home win since October, a huge 3 points and the first time this season the Blues have managed to come from behind to win a game. With other results around us going our way, this did prove to be a very good afternoon and the spirit of 2011 was definitely still alive and kicking!
This is just the start of a huge week for Blues who now travel to Huddersfield midweek and then high-flying Barnsley next Saturday. An opportunity to perhaps build on this home win? We’ll have to wait and see.