Karlan Grant’s 75th-minute strike proved to be the difference in the West Midlands derby as West Bromwich Albion capitalised on their home advantage and took a 1-0 win against Birmingham City on Friday night.
For the latter, this was a huge blow and the continuation of a torrid run of form, having now gone winless in their last six matches.
They have won just one point from a possible 18 in this run – and will need to bounce back with a win away at Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night if they want to halt their slide down the Championship table.
For a side that were sitting in fourth last month after a solid 2-0 victory against a capable Derby County side, their recent decline has been a surprise to say the least after a promising start to manager Lee Bowyer’s tenure.
In fairness, they did face an automatic promotion contender on Friday night and managed to keep a clean sheet until the 75th minute, a vast improvement on recent games.
And with the recent international break under their belt, something Bowyer said was much-needed before the clash at The Hawthorns, Birmingham fans will be hoping a narrow defeat against a promotion favourite and the opportunity for the Blues manager to get more ideas over to his side during the recent interval will pay dividends in future matches.
Football is a results business though – and the 44-year-old will need to pick his players up ahead of their midweek tie at the John Smith’s Stadium.
We have selected two things Bowyer needs to weigh up after the second-tier side’s defeat against Valerien Ismael’s men.
The forward combination
If you could pick a position where Birmingham have the most depth, the forward department would be right up there given the different strengths their options all bring as a collective.
Scott Hogan, Lukas Jutkiewicz, and Troy Deeney are all solid options to have in the second tier, with Chuks Aneke having played under Bowyer at Charlton Athletic and proving to be a regular goalscorer in the third tier before his move to St Andrew’s in the summer.
All are fit and available with the former two starting and the latter pair on the bench at The Hawthorns, so it’s a huge surprise that the Blues have only scored once in the last six games.
This goal came from the penalty spot late on in the 4-1 home defeat against Fulham when the Cottagers had already made the game safe, so although their defence hasn’t been the best recently, their attack has been even worse.
Their current attacking record is the sort of form that would guarantee you relegation, so it makes you wonder whether both Deeney and Aneke should come in against Huddersfield to shake things up.
The former has received a surprising lack of game time recently considering he scored seven goals in 19 Championship appearances for Watford last term, so is it time for manager Bowyer to unleash the 33-year-old?
What to do with Harley Dean
After a 3-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest before the international break, Bowyer decided to re-jig his defence, with Harlee Dean and Jeremie Bela making way for Dion Sanderson and George Friend.
30-year-old Dean has been a vital part of the Blues’ starting lineup since Harry Redknapp recruited him back in 2017, with the central defender arriving from Brentford in a £2.2m deal.
He arrived in the West Midlands having built up a solid reputation at Griffin Park but was one of those who dropped out on Friday night for Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Sanderson, who was impressive at The Hawthorns.
With this, it would be hard to see the latter drop out, but have the likes of Marc Roberts and George Friend done enough to retain their place in central defence? The answer to that is probably yes after only conceding one against West Brom.
This makes Bowyer’s man-management of Dean crucial because one of the three starters from Friday night are likely to sustain an injury, pick up a suspension or lose their form at some point during the campaign.
Kristian Pedersen can also drop back into central defence, but Dean is the more natural option in the centre and would be likely to come in.Internet Explorer Channel Network