Andy Munro watches Gianfranco Zola’s first win as Blues manager.
Well after what seems like a lifetime of games, Blues grabbed that seemingly elusive three points. It might have been against ten men, but who cared? On the final whistle, players sank to the turf in relief like they’d just won a major cup. They then recovered to applaud the crowd, an applause led by Robbo and Gardner who were two of the stars in our victory.
When the team was announced, the big surprise was the omission of Frei who looked the man most likely to against Reading. This meant a narrow set up despite the selection of Nseu as a wingback. The first half was very even with Fulham dangerous on the counter whilst Blues were a whisker away from the lead when Jutkiewicz hit the underside of the bar with an almost textbook header.
The second half was equally even until Fulham had somebody sent off, albeit slightly harshly. This put Blues in the ascendancy helped by the introduction of a lively Che Adams who replaced a rather disappointingly ineffective Sinclair.
The star of the show was the youthful Keita and one can see why he was interesting the likes of Juventus. He showed one moment of sublime skill in the first half when he killed a difficult looping ball stone dead but then followed that up in the second half with another moment of magic. A lung bursting run down the left ended with a great cross to Jutkiewicz who converted to the equal relief of both himself and the crowd.
This hopefully is the proverbial monkey off Blues’ back but much work remains to be done. Despite excellent performances from Robbo and Grounds, the defence doesn’t fully convince. Keita and Nsue are excellent offensively but leave some holes behind them. Meanwhile, in midfield, Kleftenbeld and Gleeson give the ball away too cheaply and are one paced in their general play. Replacing one of them with the exceptional talent of Frei seems the way forward if we want to win games. However, that relies on the fullbacks being sensible in picking their times to overlap and their ability to track back with real purpose.
So a heartening display but still work in progress.