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Monday, 16 January 2012

The View Outside The Premier League: Birmingham Hit Six and Southampton Get Back In The Groove


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Birmingham City smashed six goals without reply at Millwall and while they did benefit from two dismissals for the home side, the result demonstrated that Chris Hughton's side are firmly in the promotion picture.

In the league the Blues' season has had something of a slow burn about it - partly due to commitments in the Europa League and partly the dislocation caused by the departure of so many players after relegation from the Premier League. Chris Hughton's mission was to keep the team in touch in the period up to Christmas.

Hughton - just as he did at Newcastle - has performed miracles with a depleted squad and with most of their games in hand now played, Birmingham have moved into seventh spot in the table. The club took a commendably positive view of the Europa League fixtures and their performance in those contests had boosted the players' confidence.

The team still lacks some fluency - inevitable after the quality of players who left - but there is a doggedness about the current team that should stand them in good stead at the business end of the campaign. Injuries and suspensions would be the big worry because the manager has very little cover for his key players.

Teams that empoly the likes of Nikola Zigic are unlikely to ping it around like Barcelona but the giant striker is certainly making a nuisance of himself (both Millwall red cards were for challenges on Zigic) and at Championship level he's a real weapon. It will be interesting to see if Hughton chooses to use him in their cup replay with neighbours Wolves this week.

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Southampton put their recent wobbles firmly behind them by inflicting a 3-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest. After an early resurgence under Steve Cotterill Forest are still in extreme danger of dropping to League One and this loss made it five straight home defeats.

For Saints there was the satisfaction of producing this performance without the services of top scorer Ricky Lambert, but Nigel Adkins has a player of David Connolly's experience available as back-up and the Irish international got on the scoresheet. The striker began the season like a train then fell away a little but he's excellent quality to have around the squad.

The clean sheet will have pleased the manager just as much as the goals. The defence had only produced two in eleven games before Saturday but there are signs that the machine that threatened to steamroller the division is back in working order.

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Match of the day in League One was obviously at Hillsborough where Sheffield Wednesday hosted league leaders Charlton Athletic. And the Addicks took a very significant step on the road to promotion by denting the Owls' superb home record.

Johnnie Jackson bagged the only goal of the game which consolidated Charlton's position at the summit. It leaves them eight points clear of Wednesday and it seems that city rivals Sheffield United are now the biggest threat to Charlton's pursuit of the title.

This loss is a big blow to the Owls who have slipped back in the fight for automatic promotion. The Boxing Day defeat at Walsall was a shock and they also failed to take three points from promotion rivals Huddersfield, who came to Hillsborough looking vulnerable.

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It's all getting tight at the foot of League Two. Barnet, Hereford and Plymouth all recorded victories to leave Northampton and Dagenham & Redbridge fans depressed again. Hereford won at the Daggers in a six pointer which undid much of the good work done by the home team over the festive season.

The win was vital for the Bulls who saw the team around them all making progress recently. Any of the teams in the bottom half of the table are potentially in relegation battle as there is very little to choose between so many teams.

KickNews.net - Football News & Transfers

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Hugh Larkin

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