From deep Devon to Deepdale, the Birmingham City bandwagon continues to roll on, but will it become unstuck in Preston?
Unbeaten in seven matches but only thanks to an underlying resilience in Alex McLeish’s squad, Birmingham’s bunch of true pros continue to churn out results no matter what they have thrown at them.
Injury and illness had threatened derailment in recent weeks but the Blues still remain well on course for what they set out to achieve when the Championship commenced back in August.
While around them, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading have shown panache, sheer grittiness has ensured that Birmingham maintain their fearsome reputation.
Clinical strikers won them last Saturday’s match against Watford, while Plymouth’s lack of clinical strikers helped them avoid defeat at Home Park.
So to the next challenge, where yet more compatriots await for McLeish.
Preston North End stand in the way of making it eight fixtures without defeat tomorrow evening and The Lilywhites have themselves become masters of grounding out results, just one defeat in their last seven currently sits them on the cusp of the play-off places.
“All teams do look at us as a scalp. Preston will be no different,” said McLeish on the challenge tomorrow’s opponents pose. “I know Alan Irvine very well. He was a great coach and he’s proving himself as a manager now.
“I know he has them playing good football and he’s got a lot of very good players there.
“I expect Preston to pass it. Alan has got these kind of philosophies, we saw them earlier in the season and it looked as if he wanted to pass it.
“They’ve got a few Scottish lads in there, Ross Wallace has been effective on loan, and Callum Davidson has been capped by Scotland and is a very decent full-back.
“They have other experienced players I’ve seen on my travels to Preston in the last five years still playing in there.”
While still not quite a picture of health – seven first-team members remain out of the picture for tomorrow’s match – Birmingham will be in a slightly better state for the trip to Lancashire than they were for the midweek jaunt to Devon.
Liam Ridgewell looks set to make a welcome return to the Birmingham side and, although the defender has lacked appetite in the edible sense for the last week-and-a-half, his hunger for action will not be missing tomorrow.
“Liam had some kind of infection. It was a bit of vomiting if you want the full gory details,” said McLeish. “As a result he lost his appetite and was floored.
“You know what it’s like when you get a bad dose of flu, you cannot move. I think he was in his bed for three days.
“But we have seen him this week, he’s been in a couple of days’ training, and he’s given me the thumbs up more or less, so he’s available for selection.”
Ridgewell’s return to the centre of defence alongside Radhi Jaidi will give Birmingham a major boost at the back after some shaky performances from Martin Taylor. Franck Queudrue, himself a victim of a virus although not to the same bed-ridden degree as Ridgewell, is also likely to suffer the same fate as Taylor in place of Stuart Parnaby, who impressed at Plymouth.
That still doesn’t make up for the fact that the influential James McFadden and Seb Larsson will both miss out again with groin injuries.
Down to their bare bones they may be but only a fool would back against Birmingham making it eight and counting in front of the TV cameras tomorrow night.