As an international defender, Matthew Upson takes it personally when Birmingham City concede a goal.

And these days his frustration is growing, for Blues are no longer a bastion of stability.

On the face of it, the 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool last Saturday was a good result but Upson was one of many Birmingham players to emerge afterwards with that deflated feeling. Gone, it seems, are the days when Blues could be guaranteed to keep a clean sheet.

While Liverpool created an abundance of opportunities in the match, the goals they scored were, from Birmingham's point of view, avoidable. LuIs GarcIa was allowed to run unmarked into the penalty area to score the first; Jamie Carragher was allowed a free header to net the second.

"I am just bitterly disappointed at the manner in which we conceded two goals again," said Upson, whose central-defensive partnership with Kenny Cunningham is still regarded as one of the most effective in the Premiership.

"From my point of view, it is becoming a little bit annoying that we are not picking up enough points and conceding goals like we did.

"True, there were a couple of dubious decisions [against Liverpool] but that happens every week. The point is we have to deal with a situation once it arises and we didn't do that well enough. We have to improve and stop conceding unnecessary goals."

Birmingham are sticking to their tried-andtrusted 4-4-2 system at a time when many other clubs, most notably Liverpool and Manchester United, are opting for more cautious approaches.

Liverpool use Peter Crouch, the former Aston Villa striker, as a target man while Blues use Emile Heskey as a target man, but with Mikael Forssell alongside him.

"Liverpool are playing a shape that is quite fashionable at the moment in the Premier League," Upson said.

"Target men are coming back into style a bit in terms of playing one big man up front and having two players off them.

"Peter Crouch is ideal to play that role if you want to clip it up to him. I thought we sat off them a bit too much in the first half and they had a lot of play without hurting us much which we were quite happy with at half-time. I think they are struggling a little bit in attacking terms. Maybe it is not quite working for them.

"The second half was a lot more open and Steven Gerrard started to gamble a bit more and stay higher up the pitch. He received a lot of ball in between the midfield and the defence and created a few problems.

"If Steven Gerrard is on form, then he has got the influence, the presence and the ability to dominate matches."

Gerrard played well in the second half but the performance of Neil Kilkenny, the young Birmingham midfield player making his Premiership debut, stood out for Upson.

Kilkenny was sent off for handling the ball on his own goalline but otherwise emerged as a bright prospect.

"Neil has had a really difficult debut," Upson said. "We were under pressure a lot in the first half and Neil is a real ball player.

"It is his defensive and dogged side of his game that he needs to work on the most.

"You get him on the ball and he is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough chances to show people how good he is but I still think it was a good solid debut."