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The R Word
Birmingham City yesterday drew 2-2 with Brighton and Hove Albion to remain in 20th place with 31 points, five ahead of the drop zone. With just eighteen matches remaining this season relegation is looking a more and more serious threat – are Blues truly in danger?
As someone who tries to be positive, this is difficult for me to write. I truly want to believe that Blues will improve and rise to mid-table but as the matches continue it’s becoming increasingly more bleak for the club and I think it’s reflected in the flat atmosphere at the home games – it’s like we’re almost expecting the incoming defeat.
The problem is from a statistical point of view things do not make for good reading. Blues haven’t won at all since Boxing Day and haven’t won at home since the last day of November. Worst still, it’s been fourteen league games now since Blues last kept a clean sheet and in thirty-two games in all competitions this season Birmingham have only kept four. In comparison to how the team has been built over previous seasons – good home form and a solid defence – the difference is palpable.
Yet when you take it into context with the teams around us it becomes even more baffling. Of the bottom seven teams, Blues have comfortably the best goal difference (-9) and whilst only three teams have scored fewer goals than Blues – including Barnsley who stuck five past us at St Andrews – all bar two of the bottom seven have conceded more goals.
The reason for this is evident when you look at the win-draw-loss records – Blues might have only lost 11 games this season in the league but they have also only won seven – only the bottom two have won fewer games. The draws column is where Blues stand out, having drawn 10 games this year – and this is what is in my opinion killing us.
The Huddersfield game is a good example of this – but for a late, late equaliser Blues could have picked up a much-needed win. In the last ten league games there have only been two games where we have been winning at half-time (Huddersfield and Burnley) and both games we ended up with only a point – and against Burnley that was only down to Nikola Zigic equalising in the 89th minute. Against Bolton we took the lead early on but were losing by half time and finished the match losing. In that same ten match period, Blues have only won twice – with one of those (Middlesbrough) coming from a position where Blues were behind at one stage.
It’s got to the stage whereby like yesterday, even when Blues score first I personally find myself thinking that Blues need at least another one if not two goals to be remotely sure of taking the points because I can almost guarantee that we will concede at some point. I wonder how much of this is in the player’s minds too – it almost seems at times that when Blues do concede the players accept it as an inevitability – it’s going to happen. Thinking and playing like that will get us relegated.
This is the rub – this is why I (like quite a few other Blues fans judging by my Twitter timeline) felt so agitated when I saw the starting line up and saw no strikers on the pitch. For Blues to do anything they need to win games. Unlike this season, they are not going to defend stoutly and nick games, or grind out efficient 1-0 wins; this season we need to attack and score as much as possible because one knows that we will concede.
By my reckoning, Blues need 19 points or so from the remaining 18 games to have a good chance of staying up (which becomes a daunting 29 points if we do slide into administration). At this moment in time I think even the lower target is going to be a struggle and I think Clark needs to realise this – performances aren’t what matter now, it’s all about points. If it has to be long-ball, hoofed, direct football to the big bloke up top to knock down for the rest then so be it. We’re at the business end of the season now and saying “we were unlucky” or “that wasn’t deserved” no long cut it (if it ever did in the first place) – we need to start creating our own luck and start scoring some undeserved points.
Judging by my thoughts at the start of the season this season is a failure no matter what happens. The time has come for Clark and his staff to make that failure just a mere blip in our fortunes rather than a catastrophic relegation – and if they can’t do that or feel that they’re not going to be allowed to do anything to prevent it due to financial constraints etc then I honestly think that it’s down to them to hold their hands up and walk away.