This one was labelled as a “must win” and it didn’t need much reading as to why that was the case. Blues found themselves level on points with their opponents today, despite Wednesday having a points deduction at the start of the season (albeit reduced after an appeal). After losing 3 on the spin the confidence was rock bottom at Blues and you can’t help but feel they needed something to go their way eventually to finally get those much needed 3 points.
The game started exactly how many expected it, a scrappy affair between two sides inside the bottom 3, where the ball spent more time in the air than it did on the deck. The first 20-25 minutes were extremely dull and it was Wednesday who had the first real half chances full their way. Blues again the architects of their own downfall with sloppy errors leading to Wednesday having a fairly tame effort at goal, which Etheridge gathered with ease.
It very much looked like one of those games where Blues were set up to not lose at all costs and just hope they’d be able to capitalise from a set-piece or rare counter attack coming off. They did enjoy a lot more of the ball within the last 10 minutes of the first half and the chances came; Gardner received the ball from Hogan inside the box, but instead of pulling the trigger, decided to round the keeper and pull it back to Sunjic who’s diving header was blocked and the danger was averted.
It wasn’t long till another chance came Blues way, this time a ball into the box was trapped by Hogan who managed to work himself a yard of space, however Wednesday had all hands on deck and his effort was blocked.
Both teams went in level at the break and on reflection of the half it seemed a fair result.
The impetus really was on Blues to come out this second half and force themselves into the game to grab that much needed result, which has been many a fans gripe towards the Manager throughout this season. Both teams were unchanged and within 5 minutes that little bit of luck Blues needed eventually came – a second yellow card for Liam Shaw.
The impetus really was on Blues now to go and take the game to 10 men. If ever there was a time to do so, this was definitely it.
Karanka decided to make that change, bringing Sunjic off for Halilović, with the intent to get some more creativity going forward.
It didn’t take long for that to pay off either, Halilović picked the ball up centre of the pitch and played the ball out wide for Bela, who’s cross come shot was met by a clever touch from Scott Hogan who glanced the ball into the back of the net. Relief?
You can’t help but feel this Blues side need to kill the game off due to defensive frailties and they were starting to go back into their shells after the goal. With 20 minutes to go Karanka decided to make some changes again, but this time it wasn’t as positive as the first. Both Sanchez and Bela made way for Roberts and MSJ, which meant Blues were lining up 5-4-1 and seemed happy to try and see the game out…to the disgruntlement of many on social media.
A few more half chances did fall Blues way due to Wednesday starting to commit a few more bodies forward and if it wasn’t for a slight lack of composure in the 18 yard box, plus a fantastic block from Palmer to stop Hogan tapping home, it would have been 0-2 and all wrapped up.
Of course Blues never do it the easy way and as clock ticked by you just felt Wednesday were going to get that opportunity to grab a sucker punching equaliser. That chance did come through Rhodes who’s header was saved fantastically by Etheridge to keep Blues in front and the clean sheet in tact.
The finally whilst finally came and it was met with relief both on the pitch and those watching at home. After 6 games without a win Blues finally stopped the rot and on the basis of played probably deserved to do so.
This will no doubt be a much needed confidence booster as we head into a midweek fixture against highflying Norwich City…great.
Let’s hope we can finally start putting some performances and results together, because I quite like this winning feeling on a Saturday evening, plus there’s that slight thing of actually staying in the division too.
Enjoy your weekend and Keep Right On!