The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 15 March 2016 10:30

Things started so well on Saturday when Ross McCormack scored that great goal. I was there and it’s always better seeing a goal live rather than on the TV highlights. He had a little split-second to make his mind up; the ball popped up and I think he changed his mind from driving it to chipping it. He just got it a bit on the half-volley into the far corner and gave the keeper no chance. It was a great goal, a really great goal. I spotted Gentleman Jim on the gantry after it went in and gave him a little thumbs up.

Sadly, that exquisite strike was overshadowed by the fact that we took nothing from the game. Saying that, at 1-0 we had a fantastic chance to finish them off when Ryan Fredericks sent Moussa Dembélé clean through on goal. Moussa’s first touch was fine but then his second touch was really heavy and the goalkeeper was able to smother it. That’s when you’ve got to kill games off. I thought we were by far the better team in the first half, but when that’s the case, one goal’s not enough.

No two halves of football are the same, and this was a real case in point because once they started going at us, I thought we panicked. You know you’re going to come under pressure for 10 or 15 minutes against any team, even the worst teams in the league, but you’ve just got to suck that up and have the quality to get them on the break. And I just thought that we got completely overrun in midfield at times, and you just sensed their goals were coming.

Young Luke Garbutt gave the ball away for their first goal, which was a shame for him because I thought he’d had a good game and was one of our better players on the day. When you go into the last man in midfield and you give it away, they’re straight into your back four, and it’s very hard for them to then respond as the forward players are splitting and there’s a midfield player driving through the centre. We didn’t attack that midfield player who was driving, and that was it. It was a good strike, but we should definitely have come out and got a block on. That is a real no-no; don’t lose the ball to the last man in midfield.

I can’t really put my finger on why we struggle to perform for 90 minutes. It can’t be the pressure of being at home because I think our crowd has been very good with the players. They don’t get on their backs, they realise that they’ve got to get behind them otherwise we’re going to be in a little bit of trouble, so they can’t blame crowd pressure. The players have got to look at themselves, and manage that game better. When you’re on top obviously you’ve got to score goals, but when you do come under a little bit of pressure, don’t panic.

It’s safe to say that we’re in a relegation battle. Until you’re clear of relegation, you’re in a battle. So anyone who thought we weren’t in one must surely realise that we are now. With Rotherham putting together some results like they have been, we need to be careful. Although they’re a team of lesser ability than us individually, they’re showing that they’ve got a bit of fight for it, and we’ve got to show exactly the same fight. Once we show that, we’ll be fine because we’ve got better players.

Birmingham away on Saturday is clearly a tough fixture, but we’ve got to be going everywhere now and getting something. We’ve got to be picking points up away from home, and more importantly picking up three points at home. If you look on paper at what Birmingham have got, they haven’t got a hell of a lot, so I’ve been really impressed with them. I think Gary Rowett is one of the brightest managers in the division because he took over last season when they were in trouble, so if you count up his record since he took over, last season and this, it’s probably promotion-winning form. I don’t think they’ve quite got enough to get in the Play-Offs, but he’s done an excellent job. It’s the international break after that game, too, so we’ve got to get something at St Andrew’s because we don’t want to be thinking about having lost three on the spin for two weeks before the next fixture.

Last week we saw the Club appoint a former colleague of mine in Tim Flowers as Goalkeeping Coach. I played with Tim at Blackburn, and he calls himself The Cat. He’s not so cat-like since his hip operation, but he’s a top fella and he’ll be great to have in and around the dressing room. You need characters and there’s no better character than Tim. He was a top-class pro for Blackburn, Southampton, and obviously England as well. He was one of the best keepers at the time, and I only had one season with him but we struck up a good friendship. He’s a good lad and he’ll be a great acquisition for us.

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