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Goals Goals Goals
Birmingham City sealed an amazing stat this weekend when Yann Kermorgant scored in the match against Charlton, clocking up an entire year without a goalless draw. The streak stretches back fifty-four games in all competitions to the match against Hull City on February 14, 2012.
As sequences go, it’s fairly incredible. In those fifty-four games, Blues have only kept six clean sheets – (four of which have been this season) and are currently on the longest run in the Championship without a clean sheet at 16 games. However, what surprised me more is that Blues have only failed to score eight times in those fifty-four games (of which five have been this season) and they have found the net in eight out of the last nine games.
In some ways it sums up our chief problem this season – to win a game, Blues need realistically to score two, if not three goals because you can almost guarantee the lapse in concentration that will cost them at least one at the other end. Under Hughton Blues were set up as a strong defensive unit and they had the tenacity to grind out wins when needed but it’s not happened this year for whatever reason – the slowing of Caldwell, losing two first choice full backs, etc.
The good thing for me is that I think Lee Clark has come to the same conclusion that I have – if you can’t stop letting goals in then all you can do is get your team to score more, and Blues have been doing that quite a bit of late (eight goals in the last five games isn’t bad for a team in our position). Whilst I’d concede that there are periods in matches where I think “Oh no, we’re in trouble here” there are also often spells where one can almost feel the goal coming because Blues have been able to create something – we may not have scored as freely as we did at points last year but there has been a steady flow of goals now.
However the clean sheet thing has become somewhat a monkey on the player’s back. In the last five games, Blues have conceded in the last few minutes four times – Yann Kermorgant’s 88th minute opener being the earliest of them – and I wonder how much that has affected the team’s morale. Granted, the penalty against Forest was soft but the other three have come about due to lapses in concentration and mistakes and it worries me that the team are switching off just before the end of a game because it has cost us points and will do so in the future. Whilst Blues have picked up nine points in their last five games the teams around them have also picked up points and Blues find themselves no further out of trouble then they were five games ago – if anything, the bottom half of the table has bunched up more.
Two of the next three games are key for me. Whilst Blues take on a good side in Watford on Saturday, the following games against Sheffield Wednesday (currently 19th) and Peterborough (currently bottom) give Blues a chance to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation trap door. Whilst I wouldn’t say that they were must-win games yet there is no doubt we cannot afford to lose them, and if we do not concede a goal we won’t. Can Blues bring the nil back to a St Andrews scoreline?