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Mid-season report: Birmingham City

Sports Mole picks apart Birmingham City's 2014-15 season at the midway point - a tale of two halves.

Birmingham City provided great drama on the final day of last season when they miraculously fought back from the cusp of relegation to maintain their status in the second tier.

A summer of change followed, with over 20 transfers in and out at the club. Lee Clark was tasked with avoiding such a scary finish, but he lasted just a couple of months before Gary Rowett took charge.

The change proved to be the right one for the club and Rowett has shown great adaptability after making the step up from League Two.

Things are looking up for the Blues and here, Sports Mole remembers an up-and-down first half of the 2014-15 season.


A 100% pre-season with just one goal conceded gave Blues fans hope of a good start to the campaign, but that was dashed when Middlesbrough won comfortably 2-0 at home on the opening day. Birmingham's woeful home form was the main reason for their relegation scrap the previous season and fans would have been nervous going into the first game at St Andrew's against Cambridge United in the League Cup.

The newly-promoted League Two side took them to extra time before running out of steam and losing 3-1 in 120 minutes. That resulted in the 2011 champions drawing Premier League Sunderland and although it was goalless at the 75-minute mark, three goals in the final 15 saw the Black Cats run out 3-0 winners.

Clayton Donaldson of Birmingham City tangles with Aaron Hughes of Brighton & Hove Albion during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion at St Andrews (stadium) on August 16, 2014© Getty Images

After the win over Cambridge in the Cup, Birmingham had their first home league game and were looking to win a Championship match at St Andrew's for the first time since October 2013. Fans would have been anxious, but there was no need to worry as Wes Thomas's header soon after half time ended their 18-game wait for a home league win.

That would be their only August win, though, and the remainder of the month was very cruel. Draws at home to Ipswich Town, when only a 94th-minute goal denied them victory, and at Brentford, where they had a numerical advantage for much of the game but let in a late equaliser, followed before a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Wigan Athletic. That left them 20th in the table, where we predicted that they would finish in our season preview.


Lee Clark of Birmingham City looks on prior to the Pre Season Friendly match between Notts County and Birmingham City at Meadow Lane on July 29, 2014© Getty Images

Three of the first four games in September were at home but they couldn't win any as Leeds left with a point before Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham took all three from St Andrew's. Between the Wednesday and Fulham losses there was an encouraging point at then-second Norwich City, but they threw away a two-goal lead there and it was seven games without a win following the defeat to Fulham, who were bottom of the table.

September wouldn't go by without a maximum as Clark received a much-needed boost with a 3-1 win at Millwall, their first away victory of the season, on the final day of the month. Brek Shea also arrived on loan from Stoke City for three months and set up the Blues' goal in the draw against Leeds on his debut.


A 1-1 draw at unbeaten Charlton Athletic got October off to an Okay start, but that would be Clark's last point as Birmingham boss. He was sacked after the 1-0 defeat to then-bottom Bolton Wanderers, again at home, but fortunes didn't improve without him under the temporary stewardship of coach Richard Beale and chief scout Malcolm Crosby. Another 1-0 loss came the day after Clark's dismissal at Blackburn Rovers before the worst day of the season - an 8-0 humiliation at home to Bournemouth.

That meant Birmingham had just one home league win to their name in over a year and the man expected to turn the club's fortunes around was former player Rowett, who had come ever so close to League Two promotion with Burton Albion in the last two seasons. He was appointed on October 27 and tasked with getting the Blues out of the relegation zone and up the table.

Burton manager Gary Rowett looks on prior to the Capital One Cup Second Round match between Burton Albion and Queens Park Rangers at Pirelli Stadium on August 27, 2014© Getty Images


His first game was about as tough as they come - a trip to nearby Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were joint-top of the table and had won as many home games as anyone else at that stage of the season. Rowett shored up the defence after the 8-0 defeat to Bournemouth and managed to get a point in a goalless draw. A promising start.

It didn't get any easier for the new boss as next was a visit from league leaders Watford. Given Birmingham's atrocious home form, many didn't give them a chance, but a win arrived thanks to Clayton Donaldson's double, which included an 86th-minute winner.

A goalless draw at home to Cardiff City followed before two consecutive victories to finish the month, first at Rotherham United and then at home to Nottingham Forest.

It couldn't have gone much better for Rowett, a five-game unbeaten start and a nomination for the Championship Manager of the Month. Birmingham had pulled four points clear of the drop zone and the feel-good factor was back at St Andrew's.


Enter December. Birmingham's bubble was burst with a 1-0 defeat away at lowly Blackpool. They responded quickly and handsomely with a 6-1 victory over Reading the following week, making it three wins out of four and no defeats at St Andrew's under Rowett. Some turnaround. Promising teenager Demarai Gray netted a first-half hat-trick to alert potential suitors and keeping hold of the winger will be a priority next month.

Demarai Gray of Birmingham City in action during the Pre Season Friendly match between Notts County and Birmingham City at Meadow Lane on July 29, 2014© Getty Images

A trip to Huddersfield followed and Birmingham continued their impressive form with a 1-0 victory - the first team to win at the John Smith's Stadium in eight games.

However, they were brought back down to earth when Rowett lost his first game at St Andrew's on Boxing Day as promotion contenders Derby County visited and hit the Blues for four. The calendar year would end a big high, though, as Birmingham fired home three goals in 10 minutes at the end of the first half to beat Forest.

That leaves Birmingham inside the bottom half on goal difference alone and they are almost as close to the playoffs as the drop zone. The turnaround under Rowett has been better than many fans could have wished for and they will be eager to see if this team can continue their charge up the table in 2015.

Star man: David Cotterill

Must do better: Lee Novak

Where to strengthen in January: Attack

Position at start of 2015: 14th

Mid-season grade: C+

To see Birmingham's remaining fixtures in 2014-15, click here.

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Manager Gary Rowett of Burton Albion shouts instructions during the Capital One Cup Second Round match between Burton Albion and Fulham at the Pirelli Stadium on August 27, 2013
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