Birmingham City's season will be shaped over the next two weeks

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Birmingham City were well-beaten at Craven Cottage, hit for six by a rampant Fulham side who at times toyed with the visitors.

Two goals for Fabio Carvalho and one each for Neeskens Kebano, Tom Cairney and Antonee Robinson added to Marc Roberts’ early Oggie were enough to render super strikes by Ivan Sunjic and Gary Gardner as little more than consolations.

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Here’s what stood out.

Gulf in class

If Birmingham City’s owners need any guidance on what the club’s supporters need from them they need look no further than these opponents. For many it will be too late.

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A team crammed with talented players, so many in a squad they couldn’t all get in the match-day 18, playing attractive football in a stadium that is being updated.

Blues have had eight managers in the time Fulham have had four and the considerable investment in the playing squad has been consistent rather than turned on and off like a tap.

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Work on the Riverside Stand development, a new 8,600 seater facility, is progressing and fans are kept updated along the way.

In September it emerged the club had submitted plans to revamp the ancient Johnny Haynes stand, which was built in 1905.

Fulham might be described as a yo-yo club in terms of their league status but what cannot be disputed is that even though their owners have made mistakes, never have they turned off the funding.

And their supporters are certainly enjoying what they are seeing at present, which might be the most dominant Championship team since Wolves battered the league into submission a few years ago.

Ryan game

Ryan Woods made his first start in two months – and it could not have been in more testing circumstances.

The 28-year-old spent most of his time trying to plug the holes in which the Fulham attackers thrived – and there were occasions when he did that reasonably well, making a couple of important blocks to deny Neeskens Kebano goal-scoring opportunities and often tracking back into his own box to deny space.

But it’s impossible to hide from the fact that Blues had little answer to Fulham’s movement off the ball and use of it and at times Woods was left chasing shadows.

In truth he barely had the ball in the first half but he was more influential in the second and to his credit he ended up with 72 touches, the most of any Blues player and more than Tom Cairney or Harrison Reed.

The difference was his Fulham counterparts were on the front foot and had passing options all over the field, Woods was a conductor without much of an orchestra.

Still, he’s back as a live contributor to the Blues midfield and his distribution remains better than any of his counterparts.

Case for defence

Blues’ defence struggled badly in the first half, with the three centre backs unable to track the runs of Kebano, Carvalho and Harry Wilson.

If the players in front of them gave anything like too much time Fulham would play through them. That was illustrated by Cairney’s goal when Wilson took advantage of hesitation to craft an opening from which the captain’s deflected shot went in.

However, Blues looked far more stable in the second period, when they went to a back four, with Teden Mengi and Marc Roberts at the heart of the defence and Jeremie Bela freed from his wing back berth. The Angolan was far more threatening when he was deployed further upfield, hardly surprising for a winger.

Bowyer has flitted between a three, four and a five in the last couple of months or so – always starting matches with three centre backs – and inevitably forcing a winger to play out of position.

During the course of that he will have gathered enough evidence to think that a back four might better suit the resource he has at his disposal now.

Blues face Barnsley on Saturday – who almost always start with a three and it will be interesting to see if Bowyer thinks he can cope with the division’s lowest scorers without the security blanket of three central defenders.

It might be the time to make the switch.

The real business

Bowyer made the point afterwards that these two teams were ‘different animals’.

“Games like tonight are not going to define where we finish in the league,” he said. “Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say they are better than you – and that’s what they were.

“My team is a hard working honest team and we couldn’t even get close enough to affect them. You have to give the players of Fulham credit. That’s what you pay the money for.”

Well, the next three matches are definitely against the same species – wounded animals battling for their lives.

Saturday’s visitors Barnsley are bottom of the table, while Tuesday brings a clash with third-bottom Peterborough United, who boast the worst goal difference in the division.

Sunday week takes Blues to second-bottom Derby, who are in a false position. The Rams have battled gamely against the deduction of 21 points but the obstacles keep coming and one wonders if their siege mentality will start to wane by the time Bowyer takes his team to Pride Park.

Add to that fact the transfer window shuts the day after and it’s not an exaggeration to say the next fortnight will shape the whole direction of Blues’ season.

Blues needs points and Bowyer needs more players and there less than two weeks to find both.

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