Birmingham bag successive wins
Birmingham bagged a second successive Championship victory on Saturday as Blues were cushy 2-0 winners away at Middlesbrough. Lee Bowyer‘s boys scored twice in the space of three second-half minutes as Marc Roberts headed Jordan Graham’s free-kick into an empty net before Scott Hogan‘s fourth goal of the season confirmed the points in City’s favour.
Having seen his Birmingham side endure a winless seven game streak – failing to score in six – Bowyer admitted he was a relieved man post-match. The Blues boss said, “Yes, we had a bit of a sticky patch but we weren’t playing bad. We just couldn’t score. We were creating chance after chance, more and easier chances than today and we kept missing them.”
On the Middlesbrough triumph, Bowyer added: “I think it was a good away, solid performance, very professional. I felt that we deserved to win the game. They didn’t really trouble us.”
It wasn’t all good news for Birmingham though. On-loan Manchester United playmaker Tahith Chong appears unlikely to return from injury in time for Tuesday, whilst Kristian Pedersen is also a major doubt after coming off against Boro. With fellow wing back Maxime Colin also out, converted wingers Jeremie Bela and Graham may be required in defence.
Bristol City end home hoodoo
Bristol City came from behind to beat Barnsley 2-1 on Saturday and secure their first home victory since January, ending a club-record 17-match winless streak at Ashton Gate. The Tyles had taken a 28th-minute lead, but in-form Andreas Weimann turned the match on its head with two goals in five minutes just before half-time to the Robins’ relief.
It was a nervous affair for Nigel Pearson‘s side with Barnsley hitting the woodwork, having an effort cleared off the line and creating several chances, none better than for Devante Cole who somehow headed over the bar from yards out with the goal open in the final seconds. The visitors had 18 attempts overall, seven of which were on-target.
When asked of his immediate emotion at the result, Pearson admitted it was a feeling of “relief” at the final whistle. The Bristol City boss added, “We weren’t good today, we didn’t play very well today and when you play against a side that’s near the bottom and asks a lot of questions of us, I’m sure they came here knowing that under pressure we could crack.”
Blues fair favourites
Curiously, Birmingham versus Bristol City hasn’t been a fruitful fixture for the home side over the past three seasons. Indeed, the away team has run out victories in five of the last six renewals with the Robins running out 3-0 winners in last season’s St Andrew’s match-up. The visitors have posted W2-D1-L0 on their most recent three trips to the Second City.
Birmingham 1.9310/11 have been one of the Championship’s biggest underachievers this season according to underlying performance data metrics. The Blues are ranked inside the top-four for Expected Points (xP), and operate in the same area for non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) ratio. Lee Bowyer’s boys have scored five goals fewer than xG ratings suggest.
Bristol City 3.45 ended a three-game losing streak last time out, and the Robins are now sitting 10 points clear of the relegation zone. However, the same underlying performance data metrics rank Nigel Pearson’s team amongst the bottom-three with City sitting amongst the league’s lesser lights for almost all of the major metrics and performance indicators.
Keep Bowyer’s troops onside
Birmingham’s campaign has been built upon a solid foundation with Blues already accumulating seven clean sheets, three of which were earned at St Andrew’s. Matches involving Lee Bowyer’s troops have tended to be tight affairs, averaging only 2.07 goals per-game, with 10/15 (67%) of Championship fixtures featuring Under 2.5 Goals 1.664/6.
Bristol City’s outings have proven more open and expansive – the Robins have kept a solitary shutout this season with 10 (67%) games banking for Both Teams To Score 1.9010/11 backers, including five of seven road trips. But I’m going to oppose a high-scoring showdown here with Birmingham well-accustomed to keeping contests close and controlled.
Therefore, taking Birmingham Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals appeals at 1.981/1. We’ll be paid out should the match end 1-0 or 2-0 in Blues’ favour, as well as the 1-1 and 0-0 draws.