Birmingham City’s strikeforce may be misfiring but at least they appear to possess a certain amount of reliability in their rock-steady defence.

While the Blues’ faltering forwards continue to frustrate, having fired a paltry six goals in the club’s last ten fixtures, the promotion-chasers’ back-line has quietly and effectively gone about its business this season.

Birmingham have the Championship’s second-best defensive record on the road, the third best at home and have chalked up 12 clean sheets from 37 fixtures in all competitions this season.

Despite accusations of having a rearguard that is threadbare, ageing and error-prone, without the defence in question, Birmingham would certainly not be in the Championship’s automatic promotion spots.

Liam Ridgewell has been at the centre of that defence for all but three of Birmingham’s games this season.

The 24-year-old centre-half has attracted his critics since moving across the Second City from Aston Villa to St Andrew’s, but the former England Under-21 international deserves credit for his form this season.

Stand-in captain against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night in place of the rested Lee Carsley, Ridgewell remains unfazed by the changing personnel around him.

During the course of the season, Ridgewell has seen Radhi Jaidi, Martin Taylor, Nicky Hunt, Sebastian Larsson, Stephen Kelly and even Mehdi Nafti come and go to his right and Franck Queudrue and David Murphy do the same to his left-hand side.

Now having seen a new face in Stephen Carr join his back-four at Selhurst Park to help register another clean-sheet, Ridgewell remains focused on what is in front and not those around him.

Ridgewell said: “Stephen’s just come out of retirement and we’ve all been training so I thought he did pretty well on his debut. He’s got a good head on him and he’s a good footballer so he slotted in really well.”

“Radhi has been out of the team and he was another partner to come into defence with me and overall I thought it was a good solid performance from the back four (against Crystal Palace).

“It’s sometimes difficult (changing defensive partners) but we all know what we are doing and we play together in training.

“It’s not new boys; it’s Radhi, Tiny (Taylor) and myself and we all know what each other are good at so it’s easy to slot in.”

Next up for Birmingham is a trip to Sheffield United, a side on the fringes of the play-off zone and one that can also lay claim to a decent defensive record both home and away this season.

It will be Alex McLeish’s side’s third consecutive away fixture and Ridgewell insists that, after picking up just a solo point from their last six, a boost to that tally is much-needed from Bramall Lane on Sunday afternoon.

“The away games have made it a difficult week for us,” he added. “Losing at Coventry was a bad loss and we tried to get over that with three points at Palace, but the main thing was that we got at least a point. Now we’ve got Sheffield United on Sunday.

“Bramall Lane is always a tough place to go to over the years I’ve played there. Hopefully we can get three points.”

n Birmingham manager McLeish has insisted that no club has yet come forward with a loan offer for fit-again winger Gary McSheffrey.

The former Coventry City star appears to have overcome a long-term knee injury but finds himself down the pecking order.

“There has been no progress on him going out at the moment,” confirmed McLeish. “I have spoken to Gary and we are looking to do something to suit us both and get him some games.”