What a confusing puzzle are Birmingham City. Full of experience, talent and promise and managed by Lee Clark, said to have all three.
They should be challenging to leave the Championship the good way but they started yesterday morning in 20 place. Last night they played at Millwall, a club with less experience, talent and promise. And they collapsed bizarrely, gifting three goals in seven minutes to fairly simple forward play.
Birmingham, though, have better players than most in this division and Marlon King’s hat-trick rescued his team and, quite possibly, his manager.
It felt, when Chris Wood stabbed Millwall 3-0 up after just 18 minutes that the Clarke era at St Andrew’s might not last too much longer. The Millwall fans, admittedly not neutral observers, certainly thought so.
The three goals Birmingham conceded were dismal, even worse than what you would expect from a side lacking unity, cohesion and balance. “Everything that came into box had proven to be a disaster for us,” said Clark afterwards, “we weren’t dealing with anything.”
It all came through Liam Feeney. First, after 11 minutes, his long throw was flicked on. Paul Robinson and Curtis Davies paused and Chris Wood burst past them to head in at the near post.
Just two minutes later Feeney’s cross fell to Robinson whose ugly swiped clearance fell straight to Taylor in front of goal who finished.
Then, five minutes on, Feeney crossed from the right again and it deflected off left-back David Murphy. Davies misread it, headed it softly backwards and Wood took advantage.
It all turned just before the break. In added time Leroy Lita crossed for Marlon King to score at the far post. Momentum is a powerful force and Birmingham emerged far stronger in the second half. Three minutes in King showed his clear football-class, taking Murphy’s cross, finishing and scoring.
The inevitable equaliser soon followed, another Murphy cross finding the unmarked King who completed his hat-trick.
“The second half performance was our best half of season,” a relieved Clarke said afterwards. “We were dynamic, played with lots of energy, created lots of chances, we could have got more goals.”
Much of it owed to Ravel Morrison, remarkably calm and authoritative in midfield in just his fourth ever start in senior football. “I’m really pleased with his contribution, he’s a super kid,” said Clarke. “He’s knuckled down.”
Jackett, understandably, was less relaxed. “It’s very frustrating,” he said. “To say it was a winning position was an understatement.”
Millwall (4-4-2) Forde; Dunne, Shittu, Beevers, Smith (Lowry, 45); Feeney (Keogh, 66), Trotter, Abdou, Taylor; Wood, Henderson.
Birmingham City (4-4-2) Butland; Robinson, Davies, Caldwell, Murphy; Redmond (Burke, 87), Mullins, Morrison, Elliot; King, Lita.