Saturday 31st December 2011 – Kickoff: 1500hrs
Mid-table Birmingham City take on free-scoring Blackpool at St Andrews on Saturday knowing they must start winning if they are to stand any chance of breaking into the play-off places and make up lost ground.
Blues still remain as one of two sides yet to lose at home so far this season with a home record of 6-4-0 14/5, and possess the meanest defensive record at home in the Championship. But so what? Look at Southampton, the other side to be unbeaten at home; they’ve scored twice as many goals as Birmingham and quite frankly, have reaped the rewards of attacking football.
I just sincerely hope that manager Chris Hughton is not all-consumed by the desire to keep a clean sheet and remain unbeaten at home like his predecessor, Alex McLeish, was last season in the Premiership – and look what happened as a result!
I don’t believe that Southampton have any better players than Birmingham but their desire to win football matches by, erm, scoring goals, is streets ahead. On a more positive note, Birmingham usually score at St Andrews having failed just once (0-0 versus Brighton), the only problem now is that they have scored just 1 goal five times, and the Championship as we all know demands goals to get anywhere. Simple really.
Anyhow, back to this match and Blues desperately need to get back to winning ways and fast as it’s now just one win in their last six; they have games in hand and the pressure is mounting on them to win them both to keep up. In the recent 1-1 draw with West Ham, they were dreadful in the first half, but credit to them they kept plugging away and Zigic heading down for Murphy to grab the equaliser was just about deserved in the end.
I am hoping now that highly-rated Jordan Mutch is returning to full fitness that he replaces a below-par Keith Fahey sooner rather than later – sorry Fahey, your number’s up and you’re no longer good enough to wear a Blues shirt. Sounds harsh but he’s the archetypal run-of-the-mill midfielder that over the years have placed a burden on the team wage bill whilst producing nothing. Just compare his hunger with Chris Burke for example. Rant over.
Visitors Blackpool are living proof that if you adopt an attacking mantra (a la Ian Holloway), then the results start coming; they now sit in 7th place just outside the play-off positions, but a win today could see them sneak into the top six.
The Seasiders are unbeaten in their last four matches with wins over improving Reading and Barnsley whilst drawing with Southampton away and Watford. Their away record could be improved at 3-5-4 19/20, but they have lost just once in their last five on the road and they are improving.
Scoring goals (and conceding them) are not a problem for the Lancashire outfit, but they do possess some dangerous attacking players such as former Blues striker Kevin Phillips (leading scorer with 7 goals), forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher (4 goals, 5 assists) and Matty Phillips who scored a hat-trick against Barnsley on Boxing Day (keep the match-ball son).
Callum McManaman and Lomana Lua Lua are also players that will need to be watched and tracked closely.
In summary, put quite simply, Blues must go on the attack and go all out for the win here. Their defending is still not great despite what their record suggests, and we know about Blackpool’s scoring capabilities – leaves me one nailed on option; both to score – could be another 1-1 draw I’m afraid.
Pick: Both teams to score @ 1.80 William Hill