Post-mortem: Sorry Birmingham City to be relegated and a solid performance from three new defenders

This is a post-mortem and I often forget to look at the details but I've sort of summed it all up in the title I think. Birmingham City have no bottle and on the performance that they put on in front of their home supporters yesterday is anything to go by, then they will be relegated this season.

It wasn't just because they were poor, it was mostly that they started the game not wanting to win. They merely wanted us to not score. They played for a goalless draw and it was shocking.

There as actually a moment in the second half when their striker, all up by himself, chasing a long ball cleared by his defence and didn't get it, turned to his team mates and urged them to come forward. It was quite embarrassing but understandable, it was their biggest match of the season.

What The Papers Say

Sam Wallace, The Independent
When Martin O'Neill made the decision to chase this game in the last 15 minutes it was John Carew rather than Heskey whom he picked to force the issue for Villa. Carew got the knockdown from Ashley Young's free kick from the right which Agbonlahor reacted to the quickest. Unmarked he headed the ball past Joe Hart from close range and this game was all but over.
Janine Self, The Sun
It was a similar story in the stands. A muted atmosphere with none of the hostility that tends to mark Second City derbies at either venue. Some Villa fans turned up in swine flu masks - a jibe at the ground they call the Pigsty. Hardly threatening. In the end it was Birmingham followers who reluctantly had to adopt The Streets' 'Dry Your Eyes, Mate' as their theme tune of the day.
Stuart James, Guardian
Birmingham had battled valiantly and managed to subdue Villa for long periods during a stodgy affair, but the absence of a cutting edge rendered a late equaliser unlikely. Indeed, it was Villa who came closest to scoring again, with Agbonlahor squandering an excellent chance when he shot over after racing clear in the 89th minute and John Carew and James Milner contriving to make a mess of another fine opportunity with the goal at their mercy.

The Manager

Martin O'Neill
But we were brilliant at the back too. I thought the three debutants were terrific. They played really, really well. You'd think they had played quite some considerable time together. But we have only had the two days to do some work but they fitted in excellently. We kept a clean sheet.

The Players

The Clowns (4-5-1): Hart, Tainio, Johnson, Queudrue, Parnaby, Ferguson, Larsson, Bowyer, Fahey, McFadden (Carsley, 45; Phillips, 85), O'Connor (Benitez, 79). Subs not used: Taylor, Espinoza, McSheffrey, Johnson.

Aston Villa (4-5-1): Friedel, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Milner, Sidwell, Reo-Coker (Carew, 75), Petrov, Young, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan, Delph, Heskey, Shorey, Beye, Gardner.

Man of the Match

This has surprised me, although in the same breath it hasn't but it has gone to Richard Dunne with 40.7% of the vote and he was followed by James Collins with 29.5% of the vote. Stephen Warnock came in 6th place with just under 2% of the vote and Gabby was third. You can see the full results here.

Some Stats

We are up to sixth, with a game in hand. If we win that game 2-0 against West Ham, we'll be in fourth place. Not bad is it? We also made 325 passes of which 266 were successful and we failed on 59.

Final Analysis

You just have to be happy with the result. Blues came out looking to defend for 90 minutes and they did their job, although had we gotten lucky we could have been one or two up before the need to bring on John Carew, but we weren't and it did change the game when he came on.

However I suspect the main talking point today is going to be formation. The Clowns would go on and on about this result for days if they had won, we have to move on as we have a match coming up, but formation is an important issue to tackle.

We started playing 451, we sort of had too as it was successful for us and they were starting with 451 - if you start a match against lesser teams even with a man short in midfield, as we saw against Wigan, it can be fatal. So we lined up how we all hoped we would and it worked.

But Blues defended and that was their main objective; we saw that with decision to bring on and take off Carsley. Never mind. With 15 minutes to go, Carew was brought on and we went a proper 4-3-3, some might even sat 4-2-4 when we had the ball, you saw people running everywhere. Ten minutes later we scored.

As soon as we scored, we went back to 4-5-1 and Blues went very much a 4-4-2 with the introduction of a striker for their defensive midfielder Carsley, who was only on the pitch for 40 minutes. At the end of the day, we started the match in 451, for 10 minutes we played differently by pushing everything forward, because The Clowns were sitting back and we got what we deserved and the only thing that matters.

But for me, the talking point today should be our defenders. There was a point in the first half where their right winger Larsson got a chance to have a shot and a second or two later, I saw four claret and blue shirt diving in to stop it. It made the day for me.

It was as you would have hoped but it was nice to see. If Collins and Dunne play like that on a regular basis it is going to be hard for Curtis, but they won't and he is an excellent defender so I expect to ultimately see him back.