|Birmingham City 2 v 2 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 29th September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Hurst: Even the Most Boring Win Would Put a Smile on My Face
Friday, 28th Sep 2018 11:09
Boss Paul Hurst admits he would be happy with even the most boring win with his side not playing particularly well as Town look to end their long wait for their first victory under his management at Birmingham City on Saturday.
The Blues, 23rd in the table, have lost all four of their Championship away games this season - as well as the on-penalties Carabao Cup defeat at Exeter - with their last win on their travels the 4-0 thrashing of Reading in 2017/18’s final trip a week prior to the end of that campaign.
“Yep, I might even smile if we got that,” Hurst responded when asked if he’d take a boring win at this stage.
“We said that, it doesn’t matter how it comes. I genuinely believe that we will win a game of football whether it’s Saturday or the next couple of weeks playing worse than what we have done so far.
“I’m not saying it’s been absolutely brilliant but I guarantee you we’ll play worse and win a game of football.”
Town go into Saturday’s game having recorded their first clean sheet of the season in last weekend’s 0-0 home draw with Bolton, which Hurst says gives his side something to build on.
“Yes, it does, albeit people will point to Bolton having 10 men and of course they did,” he added. “You still have to do it and it wasn’t [11 v 10] for quite as long as some people think because of Jon Walters going off for that last period.
“I don’t feel we’ve been too far away from them before in truth. I do feel like we’ve been punished in, not all games, but certainly in some games where they’ve done very little to us and when we’ve looked at shots against us and things like that it’s been frustrating that we’ve had to wait so long to get that.
“It would be great if we can get two in a row, that’s what we’ll be aiming for against a team that are just on the back of a very good win at Leeds but at times have had their own problems when they should have got more from games that they haven’t.”
Birmingham, 17th, were without a win anywhere until last week’s 2-1 victory over leaders Leeds, but Hurst says they have been better than their position and current record suggests.
“When I’ve seen them, yes,” he continued. “I was at the Sheffield United game [at Bramall Lane when they drew 0-0], they did very well in terms of frustrating Sheffield United initially and then came on strong at the end of the game and had the better chances.
“They’ve adopted a certain approach in the last three games, prior to that I’ve seen them on TV against Swansea and they played a different way, were on the front foot and created a lot of chances but couldn’t take them and ended up having to settle for a point when they should have won that game.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they approach it. I’m sure they’ll be looking to build on last week and will think it's a very winnable game for them. We hope that they maybe take us a bit lightly and we can capitalise on that.”
Was the Leeds result a big shock or just the traditional topsy-turvy nature of the Championship?
“The league is tough but all leagues are,” Hurst reflected. “I still think this league has got a group of teams who have strength in depth and big budgets, someone mentioned Derby and Martyn Waghorn not getting on the pitch in midweek. That’s a strength that they’ve got.
“But it’s football and anyone can beat anyone on a given day. Our games, the majority have been pretty close and could have gone slightly different ways than they have.
“Was it a surprise? It was in some ways because of how well Leeds have been doing but at the same time, having seen them in midweek and thinking about how they might approach that game, and particularly when they get themselves in front, they can be a very difficult team to break down.”
Hurst seems unlikely to stray too far from the team which started against Bolton last week, although on Thursday revealed he had injury doubts regarding a couple of unnamed players.
Assuming those concerns make it, the back four behind keeper Dean Gerken is again likely to be Matthew Pennington at right-back, Jonas Knudsen at left-back with skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala at the centre of the defence.
In midfield, Cole Skuse is likely to be joined by Trevoh Chalobah - or alternatively Tayo Edun - and Jon Nolan.
Gwion Edwards is likely to be on the right with Grant Ward or Jordan Graham on the left and Kayden Jackson the lone striker.
Andre Dozzell has travelled with the squad for the first time this season and could make the bench.
Birmingham boss Garry Monk insists he and his team won’t take Town too lightly despite their current position in the table and lack of a victory all season.
His team will be looking for their first home win of the campaign but are currently unbeaten at St Andrew’s having drawn all four of their games on their own turf so far.
“Our record at home, coming off the back of a win, we have set up for different scenarios to try and do it in the way we need to do it,” he told the Midlanders’ official site.
“Our challenge is to get our fans a win at home. We feel that is overdue. We have done more than enough to give those home wins to the fans, but the facts are we haven’t delivered that. Our motivation is to try and give our fans that win, it is important to us.
“The message to the players is let’s not underestimate anything. We have been in Ipswich’s position of not winning, and that was only one game ago.
“We know they will come here and try and fight for that win. It will be a difficult game, but we have to overcome all that.
“We need to be ready whatever scenarios – offensively, defensively – and make sure we are ready to deal with both and put our emphasis on it.
“We have to be at 100 per cent. We are not a team that can be at 70 per cent. We have got most of that right this season, in terms of our commitment to it.
“It will be difficult. They might try to come and frustrate. We need our fans to understand that as well. A bit like QPR did [in the 0-0 draw early this month].
"We might need that patience from the fans, but with that noise. But we also need to overcome that with our performance.”
Brothers Gary - who suffered a knock at Leeds - and Craig Gardner - who has missed the last three matches - are both back in training, but Isaac Vassell (hip) and David Davis (ankle) remain on the sidelines.
Historically, Town have had the better record in fixtures between the sides, winning 35 times (32 in the league), drawing 16 (16) and losing 30 (24).
In March at St Andrew’s, Jota’s controversial 21st-minute penalty saw Birmingham City to a 1-0 victory over the Blues.
Jacques Maghoma appeared to go to ground very easily when challenged by Cameron Carter-Vickers to win the spot-kick, while the Blues, who extended their goalless run to four games, rarely looked like getting back on terms.
At Portman Road on the opening day of last season Joe Garner got his Town career off to a goalscoring start by netting a second-half debut goal to see the Blues to a 1-0 victory over the Midlanders.
Garner turned in a Knudsen cross five minutes after the break to win the game, however, the victory was marred by a serious knee ligament injury sustained by Andre Dozzell just before the break.
Blues midfielder Emyr Huws, still not ready to make his return after last season's knee injury, had a spell on loan with Birmingham while a Manchester City player during the second half of 2013/14 making 17 starts and scoring two goals.
Tom Adeyemi, in the early stages of his rehab from the achilles injury he suffered in pre-season, spent the whole of the same season with the Midlanders making 36 starts and four sub appearances, netting three times.
Ex-Blues loanee David Stockdale, currently out of favour at St Andrew’s and on loan at Southend, made 18 appearances for Town between July and December 2011, while defender Michael Morrison hails from Haverhill.
Town right-back Jordan Spence spent time on trial with Birmingham in November 2016 shortly after his trial with the Blues but before he signed at Portman Road.
Saturday’s referee is John Brooks from Leicestershire, who has shown 38 yellow cards and one red in eight games this season.
Brooks was last at Portman Road for the pre-season friendly against West Ham in which he booked only Jack Wilshere.
His only competitive Town match was the 0-0 home draw with Sheffield United in March in which he yellow-carded Skuse and Stephen Gleeson as well as one Blade. Brooks has only taken charge of eight previous Championship matches.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Donacien, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Pennington, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Edun, Rowe, Edwards, Ward, Graham, Roberts, Nolan, Sears, Harrison, Jackson.
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