An enjoyable afternoon for all - excluding Millwall - at St. Andrews earlier on as a comfortable 3-0 victory saw Blues soar into the top half of the table. A hat-trick from on-loan striker Chris Wood as well as some stand out performances from a number of others made sure Blues fans went home happy today. Here are some points I picked up from today's game:
1st March 2008, Birmingham City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur. That was the last time a Blues player scored a hat-trick, with Mikael Forssell the hero that day scoring with his left foot, his right foot and his head to complete ‘the perfect hat-trick’. Three years on and loanee Chris Wood finally gave the Blues fans a hat-trick to cheer about, and in some style too. The first came just before the half-hour mark when Jean Beausejour slid the ball into the path of Wood to slot home his third goal in as many games. The aerial presence of Wood threatened the Millwall defence throughout the game, yet it was his feet they needed the watch out for as he doubled the score line when the ball fell to him in the area and he calmly fired home. The third goal was the best of the three: the ball found its way to Marlon King who controlled well and held it up before passing to Chris Burke who went on a great run. He looked up just in time to see Wood running in at the far post and put in an inch-perfect cross which found the head of the New Zealand international who completed his hat-trick. The 19-year-old looked confident, controlled and strong throughout. Man of the match and rightly so.
A case for the defence
Boaz Myhill, Stephen Carr, Curtis Davies, Steven Caldwell, Liam Ridgewell: a back-line that, on paper, oozes strength, experience and leadership; and we saw that on the pitch today. Myhill, although coming under criticism in recent games, was suitably flawless. Although the threat Millwall posed was not too great, the saves he had to make he pulled of professionally and will have done his confidence the world of good. As for the rest of the defence, a clean sheet was exactly what they deserve and after brilliant defensive headers from Davies and equally great sliding tackles by Caldwell, coupled with Carr and Ridgewell’s impressive forward play, we have a defence here who are extremely experienced and more than capable of keeping clean sheets in this division.
It is really refreshing to see wide players running at the defence, but not just running, actually taking their man on. I don’t tire of complementing Jean Beausejour, who was fantastic yet again on the wing. His off the ball work as well as on the ball work is excellent, and he ran Chris Wood close to man of the match today. On the opposite wing Chris Burke, although slightly anonymous for the first ten minutes, really got into the game and was influential particularly in the second half. His run and then perfect cross for the third goal shows exactly why we brought him to Blues.
Nullifying the threat
I wouldn’t say that 3-0 flattered us, because we worked hard all game for the goals. But Millwall’s threat at the other end of the pitch wasn’t too strong. Either that or our defence just coped with it superbly well. Myhill was called upon in the early stages of the game when former Blues player Hameur Bouazza’s freekick was saved by the Welshman. Millwall also rattled the post courtesy of a fizzing shot from Liam Feeney, and Bouazza came close again in the second half but was adjudged offside before he could shoot. The later stages of the second half certainly saw Blues put under pressure, but Myhill and the rest of the defence were able to cope with the late surge by the Londoners and kept a well-deserved clean sheet.
Stars of the show
The obvious stand out performer was Chris Wood whom, as I previously mentioned, not only scored three goals but put in a more than decent shift alongside first Adam Rooney and then Marlon King. The latter, who made his debut for the Blues today after recovering from injury, didn’t have much time to show what he had to offer but instantly impressed the Blues faithful with perfect control and brilliant hold up play. King will be a great partner for any of the strikers we have at Blues and having a proven goal-scorer fit and in the team can only be good. As I’ve already mentioned Beausejour he probably doesn’t need another mention, but two other midfielders I was suitably impressed with today were Morgaro Gomis and Jonathan Spector. The former was back in the side after recovering from injury and ran the midfield superbly. His link up play with Beausejour was second to none and I hope the knock he picked up near the end of the game isn’t too serious. On to Spector, who was all over the pitch this afternoon putting in a superb shift for the team. In recent appearances, in my opinion, he has been much more invisible, but today you could see the work he was putting in and he deserves to be praised for it. Steven Caldwell also impressed, putting in brilliant tackles to make sure he and his team kept a clean sheet. Honorable mentions go to the rest of the team who all played well today.
It’s not often you come out of St. Andrews smiling after winning 3-0, let’s hope we can make it a regular occurrence! Attacking football, wingers who beat their man, hat-tricks and all that whilst still having a strong defence… I think I like the Hughton revolution.
Full Time: BLUES 3-0 Millwall
Goal Scorers: Wood (29) (62) (90)
Star Man: Chris Wood - reasons above
Next Up: SC Braga at home - Europa League Group Stages