Steve Bruce, his coaching staff and players have vowed to fight on in search of a play-off place despite it looking increasingly unlikely that the Baggies will be able to secure a top six finish. Even if Albion win their remaining eight matches, it might not be enough, and given that this group of players has failed to deliver when the pressure is on, it seems particularly far fetched.
Nonetheless, they travel to St Andrew’s on Sunday looking for a third victory in five games that will just about keep those faint hopes alive. It is a match that Steve Bruce’s team should win given the relative abilities of the two sides, but that was also true for their last game at Bristol City – on that occasion, an abject first half performance left the Baggies needing a stoppage time equaliser from Adam Reach to avoid defeat, and the hosts can count themselves unlucky in that Jake Livermore looked to be offside in the build-up.
Despite that disappointing display, it is hard to see what changes Bruce might make to his starting line up. The eleven that started at Ashton Gate was the same that produced an excellent display to defeat Fulham a few days earlier – we know what the players are capable of when they apply themselves properly, but that application has been missing so frequently throughout the season. The win over the table-toppers should have been a real turning point, but it looks to have been a false dawn.
If they can repeat the levels of performance they produced against Fulham, there are few teams in the Championship that would be able to resist them, but for them to do it for eight games in succession would seem extremely unlikely!
Steve Bruce will have both Sam Johnstone and Andy Carroll available for Sunday’s game, but the news that Darryl Dike is unlikely to play again this season is a major blow to those faint play-off hopes. However, the fact that those hopes are so slim means that there is no temptation to rush the American back and, after a full pre-season, we will hopefully see a fully-firing Dike raring to go when the next campaign kicks off. Meanwhile, Matt Phillips is close to starting training again but Kenneth Zohore is also unlikely to be available before the end of the campaign.
Carroll will be a useful option from the bench for Bruce should Albion need to change things against Blues, whether that be as a more direct option up front or as an extra body to defend set pieces. The Albion boss suggested that Bristol City’s second goal would not have been conceded had Carroll been on the field, so I’m sure he will be pleased to have him available.
Lee Bowyer has just celebrated his first anniversary as Blues boss having taken over from Aitor Karanka in March last year winning five of City’s remaining ten matches to pull them away from the relegation zone. A strong start to this season saw Birmingham has high as fourth in September, but that was followed by a run of five defeats in six matches and they have hovered around the bottom half of the table ever since.
Their current run of form is not great having won just three of their last twenty matches in all competitions, including an ignominious exit from the FA Cup at home to League One Plymouth Argyle in the third round. In fact, their league record since the beginning of December is even worse than Albion’s having picked up just 16 points from 19 games – only Peterborough United and Reading have worse records in that period.
However, the bottom four clubs are somewhat adrift of the remainder which means that Blues are not in any real relegation danger despite being only three places above the drop zone – Barnsley, who currently sit 22nd place, are some fourteen points below Birmingham.
While the chances of a play-off spot are remote, all Albion fans will be looking for a strong end to the season if they are to give Bruce their backing to continue next season. Victory in their only true derby game of the season (although some would debate that Albion-Blues is a derby) would be a very welcome continuation of the slight recovery in form that we have seen in recent weeks.
It is a game that Albion really should win and victory would secure only their third league double of the season.
Albion haven’t lost to Birmingham City since October 2006, a run of nine games in all competitions of which the Baggies have won six, including three of their last four visits to St Andrew’s. Their most recent visit saw Charlie Austin turn the game around with two goals from the bench in the second half to secure a 3-2 victory in December 2019.
City are one of the few regular opponents against whom Albion have registered more victories away from home than defeats. The Baggies’ record reads 28 wins against 20 defeats away to the team who started out life as Small Heath Alliance in 1875.
The club’s first met at Small Heath’s Muntz Street ground in the FA Cup 1st Round in 1889. Albion, then the holders, won 3-2 thanks to goals from Tom Pearson, Joe Wilson and Walter Perry. The Baggies won four and drew one of their five games at Muntz Street before Small Heath became Birmingham FC and moved to St Andrew’s in 1905. “City” wasn’t added to the club’s name until 1943.
The Baggies have generally enjoyed their trips to the south east side of the second city, but a trio of results there from the late the 1950s was something special. That started on Boxing Day 1957 when both Bobby Robson and Derek Kevan grabbed a brace with legendary striker, Ronnie Allen, not missing out with a goal of his own as the Baggies won 5-3.
On their next visit, in September 1958, Kevan and Allen were on the scoresheet once again while the pair of doubles came from David Burnside and Jimmy Campbell as the visitors ran out 6-0 winners. It didn’t stop there, however, and in April 1960, the Baggies were back to go one better. The Tank made it six goals in three games at St Andrew’s as he grabbed a hat trick with Ronnie Allen also scoring three, one of which was from the penalty spot. Alex Jackson also scored as Albion won 7-1, which unsurprisingly remains their record win away to the Blues.
The hosts have failed to match such goalscoring feats with City’s biggest home win over the Baggies being 4-0. They have managed that on three occasions, most recently in a Premier League fixture in December 2004 when Robbie Savage, Clinton Morrison, Emile Heskey and Darren Anderton were the scorers against Bryan Robson’s team that was showing little signs of being able to pull off a great escape.
As well as the late 50s run, the Baggies enjoyed another spell of excellent results at St Andrew’s in the late eighties, although the club itself was in turmoil. That started in the 1985/86 season when Albion won just four league matches, but two of them came against Birmingham City. The Baggies’ solitary away league win of the campaign was at St Andrew’s in February 1986 thanks to a goal from Martyn Bennett.
Both teams were relegated and the Baggies were back in Small Heath in April 1987 in Division Two when George Reilly’s goal was enough to secure the points. That was followed by another 1-0 win in March 1988 when Robert Hopkins scored against his former team, and a 4-1 win October of the same year when Hopkins scored another two with Stewart Phillips and Gary Robson also scoring.
The next meeting at St Andrew’s was in February 1992 when both sides found themselves in Division Three – Gary Robson opened the scoring before Super Bob Taylor made it three goals in his first two games for the Baggies with a brace to make the final score 3-0.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
15 Oct 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Grant)
Birmingham City 0
Last meeting at Birmingham City
14 Dec 2019 – League Championship
Birmingham City 2 (Jutkiewicz, Dean)
West Brom 3 (Diangana, Austin (2))
Albion’s Record against Birmingham City
If you cannot see the tables, click here.