Birmingham 2-2 Ipswich Six Things: draw specialists all square

Jutkiewicz bags a brace – bbc.co.uk

Birmingham City clawed back a two-goal half-time deficit to draw 2-2 with Ipswich Town, although the hosts might feel they deserved all three points. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Even start

While Birmingham were below-par in the first half, with Ipswich denying them space to create in central areas, we still saw Gary Gardner hit the woodwork in the early exchanges before Jota caused problems with his set piece deliveries. Ipswich grew into the contest and scored the opener on 26-minutes; Kristian Pedersen was caught in the opposing half when Jacques Maghoma lost possession, giving Matthew Pennington the chance to pick out Kayden Jackson; the speedy striker then showed the intelligence to tee-up Jon Nolan, who placed the ball into the top left-hand corner.

Clinical Ipswich

The Tractor Boys took confidence from the opener; Trevoh Chalobah began to get further up the pitch to win second balls, while Jackson’s pairing with Nolan threatened to light up the contest. Much of that improvement from the visitors though was down to the home side looking shell-shocked. With no Blues defender brave enough to take charge of Grant Ward’s 41st-minute corner, Maxime Colin allowed Pennington to double Ipswich’s lead unmarked.

Kieftenbeld’s impact

After Maikel Kieftenbeld came on at half-time, he lifted the hosts by snapping into challenges and winning second balls; his aggression and energy lended Blues more control. Within three-minutes of the re-start, the Dutchman touched a loose ball to Jota, who found the gaps behind Trevoh Chalobah and Cole Skuse before threading a pass to Lukasz Jutkiewicz, who slotted home with composure to halve the deficit.

The system shake-up

The intensity of Blues’ performance dropped slightly on the hour mark, after which Garry Monk deviated from the 4-2-2-2 system he has used religiously since day one. He switched to a diamond system by replacing ball-winner Charlie Lakin with another wide man in Connor Mahoney. The exciting Bournemouth loanee’s willingness to take men on meant that the likes of Nolan and Ward spent the closing stages trying in vain to quieten him, rather than stay further up to create for Jackson. Birmingham’s pressure ultimately told following a penalty-box pinball period following Jota’s free-kick as Jutkiewicz turned the ball home, but Monk’s men couldn’t find a winner.

Hurst struggles to implement Shrewsbury template

Paul Hurst showed at Shrewsbury Town that he can build a competitive outfit on a low budget, but there appear to be two main issues with his current squad that hinder his attempts to do something similar. Firstly, there were very few occasions when Ipswich’s defenders played the ball forward early but with precision; baring Pennington’s ball in behind for the opener. Secondly, they look short of a combative midfielder in the mould of Abu Ogogo or (forgive me Town fans) Ben Godfrey; it seems very surprising from the outside that they have stuck with Cole Skuse, who with the best will in the world, doesn’t appear to have retained any of the attributes required to impose himself at this level.

Blues unbeaten run continues

Birmingham have played 10 games so far this season; they have been arguably the better side in six of those encounters, on a par with their opponents in perhaps three and only deservedly beaten by Middlesbrough. While the first half performance here was below-par, Blues still created openings from set plays and were dominant after the interval. It is tempting to think, with just one win, that results in B9 have been poor, yet there is also much to be positive about; Blues currently hold the longest unbeaten run in the second-tier at four games, so a couple of victories and a charge towards the top half looks well within their range.