Birmingham City were held to a draw in the Friday night clash at St Andrews against newly relegated West Brom.
The Blues went into this game winless and that poor record continued, but not for the want of trying. A familiar story of missed chances and poor luck at the other end added up to mean that Birmingham end the game with just a point, in a game that they will feel they could and should have won.
Jota opened the scoring before missing a penalty, which summed up the story of the night for Birmingham: not clinical enough. Matty Phillips scored the equaliser just before half time which give Darren Moore’s side the time to regroup and fight for an away point.
Garry Monk’s side started the brightest in the all Midlands clash at St Andrew’s, with the pre-match favourites West Brom struggling to get into the game at all. Birmingham’s early advantage was evident but when the Baggies did attack, they looked dangerous.
The Blues’ territorial advantage was put to good work just before the half hour mark, as Birmingham opened the scoring through Jota.
The Spanish winger pounced first on a loose ball in the box to fire his side into the lead. Gary Gardner lofted a ball into the West Brom box which was poorly defended, allowing Jota to pop up and tap the loose ball into the vacated net.
Questions were asked of young left-back Conor Townsend, who made his first league start for West Brom tonight, ahead of Kieran Gibbs who missed the game through illness. The zippy full-back signed from Scunthorpe United switched off and let Jota ghost into a position of danger, ultimately costing his side.
St Andrews’ was rocking with this goal, but the atmosphere was to go up a further notch a matter of seconds later.
Birmingham instantly won the ball back from West Brom, who were proverbially on the ropes at this point, and drove forward into the box through Jacques Maghoma.
The Congolese put a teasing cross into the box which Kyle Bartley tried to defend. Bartley, who spent last season at now league leaders Leeds, lofted his arm into an unnatural position and handled the ball in dramatic fashion.
The referee Andy Madley, who had an excellent night, pointed to the spot after eyeing the handball.
Just two minutes after his opener, Jota stepped up and saw his penalty SAVED by Sam Johnstone, much to the delirium of the travelling West Brom fans behind that goal.
The head of Jota evidently dropped, as Garry Monk knew this was a big chance spurned. His side entered this tie winless, desperately needing a win to match the pleasing performances.
Garry Monk was right. The missed penalty would go down as a rued opportunity, as West Brom equalised through Matty Phillips.
The Scottish international weaved through two defenders, including Kristian Pedersen who got beaten far too easily, before poking the ball past Lee Camp.
Phillips had been playing a wing back role for West Brom prior to the international break, but Darren Moore altered his system to a four-at-the-back shape, ahead of this clash.
If you hadn’t watched Birmingham at all this season, you would never guess they were winless, as they were by far the better team against promotion tipped West Brom.
Chance after chance fell the way of Monk’s side, but to no avail. The best chance was for Che Adams, who skied a chance from 7 yards.
The young striker snatched at his chance that a more experienced player may have took a second and caressed the ball into the goal, rather than aiming for power over accuracy.
In fact, despite Birmingham’s dominance, West Brom looked the more likely to nick something at the end. Harvey Barnes extremely close, as he rattled the crossbar with ten minutes to play. Baggies players failed to get on the end of the rebound and Birmingham survived, as the St Andrews’ faithful took a collective sigh of relief.
Matt Phillips had another chance late on, but his shot had no real traction and was not going to beat the plethora of Birmingham defenders shielding Lee Camp’s goal.
Ultimately, it finished honours even at St Andrews.
The verdict: this game will be remembered as two points dropped for Birmingham and a point gained for West Brom. Winless in seven, Garry Monk’s side were extremely unlucky as they missed chance after chance. It is very early days of course, but the lack of a clinical edge in front of goal is seriously worrying for the Blues, who must look to address this immediately. As for Moore’s men, West Brom will look back on this as a point gained in a tricky away fixture, although some may go home thinking they could have gained maximum points as Dwight Gayle and the impressive Harvey Barnes came close.