This was a match of two halves. While the first half was as competitive as one would expect in a local derby and one of such importance to both sides, the second half was inexplicably very tame in comparison.
Given that the Wolves had to win and that they were playing against ten men, I expected them to come out after the break with all guns blazing as they pressed for a vital victory. In my mind I visualized wave after wave of Wolves attacks, with the Birmingham defence finally succumbing on two or three occasions. Dream on!
And it had all begun so promisingly. We started brightly and went ahead in the sixth minute when Fletcher converted from the penalty spot. Then, twenty minutes later one of our defenders made the obligatory error, allowing Larsson to put the ball past Hennessey.
It was a shocking mistake by Mancienne, even by the team`s low standards. Ironically, it was the sort of ball that Berra would have cleared with ease. Never mind; three minutes later the referee sent off Gardner for diving and this meant that Wolves would be playing against ten men for 61 minutes. A fair exchange, I thought.
Even we should be able score from open play. Clearly not, for we could not engineer a clear chance for the rest of the game. The nearest we got to scoring was during a scramble in the box in the 85th minute. Oh yes, earlier Jarvis had badly miscued a shot after Bowyer had slipped, leaving him through on goal.
While the players were able to string a series of passes together in their build-up, they lacked quality in the final third of the pitch. Moreover, as is becoming a habit, too many passes went astray. Although O`Hara was chosen as man of the match, he hardly stood out. We needed a play-maker like Milijas on the pitch, as he seems to be the only person in the squad who has the vision both to spot and execute the killer pass. Of course, we also need players who can run the channels effectively.
In defence, Mancienne had a dreadful game. Apart from giving away the goal, he made a number of other errors. At present, he possesses neither the presence nor the skills to operate in the centre of the defence, being much more at ease as the extra defender in a 4-5-1 formation. While Craddock has certainly strengthened the back line, one would never describe it as solid or unflappable.
Tactically, the team played too tentatively. We persisted with our initial formation, even after the sending off of Gardner. Had we introduced an attacking midfielder like Hammill – or even Guedioura – at that point, we could have caught Birmingham at their most vulnerable. Once the moment had passed and we had failed to make best use of our advantage, Birmingham grew in confidence. Thereafter, we never looked like scoring, substitutions notwithstanding.
It was a sign of MM`s desperation that Vokes came on in the 82nd minute. Even so, given the circumstances and an extra man in midfield, he might have had a greater impact if he had come on earlier. With his height, he might have troubled the Birmingham defenders, especially if playing in tandem with Fletcher. Really, such a comment is an indication of my own desperation and, in any case, it`s all hypothetical now.
We have to hope that MC beat WHU later this afternoon. But will it matter? If we couldn`t win today, where are we going to collect the points from? Even my wife thought we should have won with those odds in our favour. I`m off on a 25 mile bike ride to pedal off my frustrations.