THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Poor starts for Birmingham and Wolves

icon leeclark6 December ~ Games shown live on TV traditionally don't end well for Birmingham City. It meant that more than just the 13,893 fans inside St Andrew's on September 22 witnessed the 5-0 drubbing by Barnsley – themselves struggling at the wrong end of the table. In contrast, the win over Middlesbrough last Friday was a source of much-needed encouragement. More than bucking the trend for televised humiliation, this first victory in five saw us temporarily leapfrog local rivals and fellow Championship strugglers Wolves.

On Saturday we visit Molineux for a 5.20pm kick-off with a single point separating the two sides. Neither expected to be languishing in the division's lower reaches at this stage of the season but it has taken time to adjust to summer upheaval in management and playing staff.

The last time Blues met Wolves, for a forgettable FA Cup third round tie back in January (Wade Elliott snatched a late winner in the replay), Mick McCarthy and Chris Hughton were still in the dugouts. Their successors, Stale Solbakken and Lee Clark respectively, have proved far from popular with the majority of supporters.

Against Middlesbrough the first "Clark Out" banner of the season got an airing after we twice fell behind. By the final whistle it was nowhere to be seen, another textbook finish from Marlon King completing an arguably undeserved comeback. Where we would be without the 12 goals he has contributed to our tally doesn't really bear thinking about.

However, at the other end an often makeshift defence has proved spectacularly leaky, going a goal down in 13 of our 20 league games so far and conceding 3 or more to Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Hull City and Barnsley. While Clark is yet to find a settled team from his motley crew of inexperienced loanees, academy graduates and veteran freebies, our future off the pitch is equally uncertain. Gianni Paladini's offers for the club were rejected as current owner Carson Yeung awaits trial in Hong Kong.

For Wolves the season has been a rather more slow-burning disappointment. They started reasonably enough, occupying a play-off place as recently as late October, before a winless November intervened and the natives turned restless. A target for supporter frustration following a run of one point from six, Solbakken had his car vandalised ahead of the team's morale-boosting trip to Bristol City.

Despite their struggles, therefore, both teams rather surprisingly enter Saturday's game on the back of a win. Blues have, by and large, been better on their travels but remain maddeningly inconsistent. You would expect a few goals in this one, who for is anyone's guess. Sean Cole

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