Birmingham City take on Blackpool at St Andrew’s on Saturday, not only trying to get back to winning ways but also attempting to stem the flow of untidy goals.
Alex McLeish’s side have prided themselves on a rearguard that has been safe and sound. But the manner of some of the goals that have slipped through this season has caused concern.
And most of them could have been avoided.
Of the 12 goals let in, three have been own goals, three have come from the penalty spot and three from set-pieces/free-kicks.
At West Brom, Lee Bowyer’s heavy touch presented Peter Odemwingie with his goal, and last Saturday Blues allowed Arsenal and Marouane Chamakh to dance through rather too easily – ‘‘a ghastly goal’’, is how McLeish described it.
Everton’s second came in the third minute of stoppage-time when Blues had pushed on desperately trying to force an equaliser.
“When we are conceding goals – apart from the West Brom game – we’re not getting opened up,” remarked Roger Johnson. “We are still quite solid defensively.”
It’s just the silly, scruffy things that have done for Blues. That’s where they have to tighten up even further.
It wouldn’t matter, of course, if they were free-scoring at the other end.
But their well of goals is bone dry. Nikola Zigic’s header at the Emirates was Blues’ first Premier League goal in 288 minutes of action.
McLeish has said he is trying to find the right blend and balance at the top end of the pitch.
And due to Cameron Jerome’s ankle injury, Zigic could get an extended run in the team and stake a claim to be the focal point of the attack.
It’s not only how Zigic puts himself about and uses his size and technical skill to good effect, but how Blues play into and around him.
Alexsandr Hleb has the ability to play either in support of a striker or coming from the left, so he provides McLeish with an interesting option for the Blackpool fixture, which is a game Blues have to win to get their season going.