Mike Holden analyses Sunday's Championship clash between Wolves and Birmingham.
Gary Rowett is contemplating a shift in tactics away from home after watching his Birmingham side come up short at Blackburn in midweek. Blues went down 2-0 at Ewood Park, conceding twice in the space of four first-half minutes, which was virtually identical to the pattern of their 2-0 defeat in the previous away game at QPR ten days earlier.
The symmetry was particularly galling for Rowett insomuch that those setbacks sandwiched a 1-0 victory over title-chasing Hull, where Blues rode their luck, particularly in the second half, but were rewarded for arguably their most spirited 90-minute rearguard show of the season. The concern for Rowett is that home teams have adapted in some way to the formula that was working so well for him earlier in the season.
Birmingham picked up 14 points from their first six road trips, collecting maximum points in smash-and-grab fashion at MK Dons, Brentford, Leeds and Bolton, while taking the lead three times in games against Burnley and Ipswich, both of which ended all-square. But that was back when Demerai Gray posed a sizeable threat on the counter and opponents were more readily punished for throwing bodies forward.
The solution could be a change of formation, it could be a change of personnel. Rowett isn’t giving too much away at this stage but he does warn fans not to expect anything too radical. Either way, it makes punting on this game a little extra tricky and the temptation to sit on the fence is too hard to resist. Giving Wolves home advantage, the two teams could barely be closer matched and the 23/10 available on the stalemate is definitely the most eye-catching price of the three.
Rowett might be unrivalled in the fine detail of his general tactical philosophy but few managers have an ability to adapt and survive amid turbulent circumstances more than Kenny Jackett. Watching Wolves still isn’t much fun, but successive 2-1 home wins over Derby and Bristol City are no small achievement on the back of what occurred during the course of February and the toxic atmosphere that was developing among the club’s fanbase.
An even keel has returned to Molineux following those results, which combined with the local derby aspect, the early kick-off, the respective home and away records and Birmingham’s increased desire to tighten up and be extra cautious - for the opening 45 minutes, especially - it all points towards the stalemate being the way to go. From an entertainment perspective, we can only hope it’s all-square following an exchange of goals.
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