As Martin Taylor headed home a last-gasp equaliser for Watford, barely minutes after Chris Wood looked to have won the game for Birmingham City, those in the away end at Vicarage Road must have been wondering when their team’s manic rollercoaster ride will stabilise.
Those two dropped points on Sunday left Birmingham in 21st place in the Championship. It is still only August, of course, and they are still a game behind, but a win for City would have lifted them into mid-table and kicked their domestic campaign into much-needed action.
It was all looking so rosy at St Andrews back in February. Birmingham had just defied the odds to beat Arsenal and win the Carling Cup, the club’s first major trophy for 50 years. There were joyous scenes on the pitch and in the stands of Wembley that day, but when the dust settled and normality kicked in again, would those in blue and white scarves have sacrificed the trophy in favour of staying in the Premier League? Just three months later, City – with only two wins from their remaining 11 matches – slid through the trapdoor..
The departure of the squad’s big names and Alex McLeish’s switch to bitter rivals Aston Villa this summer may have been a kick in the teeth, but it has not been all bad for Chris Hughton’s new-look Birmingham so far. Indeed, City fans can still look back fondly at their Carling Cup victory thanks to the club’s unique and almost surreal involvement in a Europa League campaign despite now being in the second tier. It has also allowed them to bypass the first two hurdles in defence of their trophy. Admittedly a daunting trip to Manchester City awaits in round three, but if Roberto Mancini rests his big names, who knows?
Elsewhere, West Ham United must be wishing all of their fixtures could be played away from Upton Park. The Hammers were humiliated by Aldershot Town of League Two in the Carling Cup during midweek, and had previously dropped points against Leeds United and Cardiff City. On their travels, however, Sam Allardyce’s side have been imperious, with three wins out of three and nine goals. Sunday’s 4-1 romp at Nottingham Forest was without Scott Parker, who looks set for an imminent switch to Tottenham Hotspur.
At the top, Brighton and Hove Albion leapfrogged Southampton and Derby County, who both lost their 100% records with defeats to Leicester City and Burnley respectively. “We
Wise words but they are unlikely to curb the excitement of Brighton fans. Their team remains undefeated so far, with four league wins out of five plus the scalp of Premier League Sunderland in the Carling Cup during midweek. The club’s reward is a third-round tie against Liverpool at the Amex Stadium.