Cameron leads conservative Blues to the brink
18 April 2009
Cameron Jerome kept Birmingham`s promotion push on track with a 73rd minute winner at Watford but the opinion polls were definitely still out at Vicarage Road on whether Alex McGleish`s men are quite ready for a return to the elite.
Whilst the Hornets will be disappointed in not getting a share of the spoils after a spirited 2nd half showing, Birmingham once again showed off their 'John Major` side - extremely efficient in getting the job done but ultimately dull and boring in the process.
Let`s not be political about it…Far less expensively assembled sides have come to the Hornets home nest and impressed way more than the Blues this season and the 1-0 win certainly won`t be sending shock waves through the top flight.
There`ll be no quaking in the boots moments at Villa Park, Old Trafford or er, the JJB Stadium in Wigan for that matter.
Sure there were a number of scary moments in the first half for Watford - Loach pulling off 2 pieces of magic in the space of 1 minute to deny Larsson (with his legs from 6 yards) and then a high-flying acrobatic save to keep out Bowyers barnstormer from 25 yards seconds later but all the rest was rather routine really for the England U21 stopper.
Loach will field long rangers from McFadden, Fahey and O`Conner all day long such was the assurance in his handling under pressure - to call it 'relentless` though is a bit of an exaggeration.
In fact, whilst Loach was the busier of the 2 keepers in the first 45, he was as much a bystander in second half as Colin Doyle was in the Blues goal during the first 45.
Doyle had been under the spotlight for much of the week following Maik Taylor`s red card but the Hornets did little to question the 2nd-choice Blues stopper during the opening half.
A barnstorming 25 yard rocket from Doyley (yes, really) had him sprawling across his line, a Smith effort down his throat held with ease and he tipped over a cute McAnuff header - but that was it really such was Watford`s lackluster attack.
Second half though and it was a different story following Rasiak`s introduction at the break.
Doyle did well to produce a plunging, lunging save low down to his right to claw out a classy header from the big Pole on the hour mark before Jaidi stepped in to block Rasiak from scoring from 6 yards after McAnuffs`s clever pull back caused chaos.
After being lucky to be level at the break Watford`s 2nd half show of what they are made of (and the withdrawal of Hoskins, who was out of his depth) was encouraging.
Rose just missed out on making amends for his horror show at Norwich with a sliding effort on Rasiak`s clever cross to the backpost before the Spurs loanee drilled a dangerous cross-come-shot straight at Doyle after a jinky run down the line.
The Hornets finally got their passing game going so it was against the run of play (and with Watford looking the more likely match-winners) then that Birmingham took the lead. A speculative effort from sub Jerome  from just inside the box flew up off Jenkins and sailed passed Loach into the far corner.
Cue bedlam in the Birmingham end but tough on Watford it certainly was - just as the all action displays of Demerit and Williamson had seen off the right ol` handful pairing of O`Conner and McFadden and appeared to have Phillips in their pocket.
Even tougher still was that Jerome had laid prone on the turf, feigning injury just 45 second earlier.
The match winner really should have put the game out of sight 8 minutes later choosing instead to feed McFadden who looked as bemused as the rest of us that his strike partner chose to pass rather than pace clear after breaking free of the defense.
And for all their quality, pace and undoubted ability it`s just that sort of indecision which has failed to see Birmingham kill off sides just like Watford when they get the chance this season.
Alex McGleish reckons the Hornets were "always going to be a tough nut to crack" but there will be much tougher nuts to come next season.