Charlton v Blues preview

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February 8, 2013 by Made In Brum

I realised just how much of a decline Birmingham City are in last Saturday night. Having watched the Football League show until the bitter end, I found myself thinking: ‘oh wow, we’re up 16th, that’s pretty good’ when just two Februarys ago, we were celebrating winning the Carling Cup, midtable in the Premiership.

But there have been signs of gradual progress in recent weeks. Back-to-back wins for the first time this season is a big step forward, we’ve only lost Jack Butland in the January transfer window and he’ll be with us until the end of the season. Also pleasingly for me, the likes of Chris Burke and Nathan Redmond are beginning to show more of their abilities, At the moment, it feels as though there are more positives than negatives, which makes for a nice change.

A look at the squad

I went to the Forest game and was very happy with the performance, as well as the result, so I personally wouldn’t make any changes to that line-up. What pleased me the most about that game, was that we looked like more of a proper defensive unit than in any match I’ve seen us this season. There seemed to be a real understanding between Caldwell and Davies – when one would go forward, the other would automatically drop back – which made it difficult for Forest to find their way through. Also, Butland made some remarkable saves when his arranged transfer away could so easily have become a distraction, so I would definitely stick with the same defence and back four, and I reckon Clark will do that.

Wade Elliott flourished in the centre of the park, he became our midfield general. He distributed the ball well, organised the team with his experience, but he gave himself the right to do this because he was always battling for the ball, and that positive influence spread across the team I thought. Clark could be inclined to keep Elliott there, because the initial switch wasn’t necessarily injury-forced and he excelled in that role.

Furthermore, if he does move Elliott inside from the left, it’ll clear the space for both Burke and Hall/Redmond on the flanks. Burke, and Redmond as a sub, were fantastic against Forest. For the first half of this season they have been showing very brief bursts of what they could do under Hughton, but hadn’t been able to sustain it. They both ran the fullbacks ragged last week though and played with tremendous confidence, throughout the whole game, so hopefully there’s more to come from them. As long as the slight knock Hall picked up hasn’t affected him too much, I’d be inclined to start with him on the left because of his crossing ability, but would want to put on Redmond with half an hour to go,  that’s when his pace will be most effective as the opposition defence will tire.

Being honest, I don’t think I’ve yet seen enough of Thomas to make any sort judgement on him. However, I feel prepared to put aside his apparent lack of composure in front of goal (albeit only judging from that one miss) if he works hard for the team. He did seem like the kind of player who would be prepared to fight for the cause, which is important, so I would start with him and the prolific Marlon King up front.

If we’re drawing or losing with half an hour to go, I would take off Hall and put on Redmond, and put on Zigic for Thomas. If we play controlled, probing football for most of the match, the switch would give us another dimension and hand Charlton something different to think about. If their defence is tired, the fullback won’t be able to handle Burke and Redmond’s pace, and the centre backs will be less prepared to deal with Zigic’s aerial and physical threat. With that change of tactics, I would feel optimistic that we could pinch a goal in the closing stages, as we did against Brighton and Burnley.

Charlton’s recent form

We may have picked a pretty good time to play Charlton. Had we played them just two weeks earlier, we would have caught them on a 3 match winning streak. However, now they’ve lost their last two, one of those was a defeat at home to relegation threatened Sheffield Wednesday, and the other was to rivals Crystal Palace. They blew a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes to go in that match to lose 2-1, which may have hurt, but you can never predict how team will react to losing a derby game.

On the whole, Charlton have been relatively good defensively this season, with currently the second-best ‘goals against’record in the bottom half of the league. That’s the main reason they’ve been able stabilise them midtable after promotion, because their top scorer, Johnnie Jackson, has just 7 goals, and there’s not a team above them with a worse goalscoring record.

My prediction

I’ll go for a draw in this one. I feel that we’re starting to play with a bit more confidence now, possibly because of the end of the transfer window, which may have soothed the players’ mind-sets a little. We might do the majority of the attacking in this one, as Charlton have a better away record than home and we’re in the better form, but I just don’t think we’ll hang onto a clean sheet. 1-1.

By Gabriel Sutton (@_thescore)

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