Mistakes add up to set up brutal final day Birmingham City assignment

Birmingham City are on the brink. Fail to beat Norwich City next weekend and League One beckons.

Blues used the last of their lifelines at Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Rhys Healey cancelled out Koji Miyoshi’s goal to ensure the game ended 1-1 but that couldn’t save Huddersfield from relegation.

The Terriers stand to be joined in the third tier by Blues next weekend. Blues have to beat fifth-placed Norwich at St Andrew’s and hope that someone does them a favour.

Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers are not out of reach yet. Blues are onto their last chance saloon though.

READ: Gary Rowett fires relegation message to players before do-or-die Norwich match

READ: Gary Rowett responds to ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ fury at Blues players

How did it come to this?

We started this season hoping it would amount to more. The greedy ones among us wanted a promotion push but the realistic ones just craved a respectable drama free finish.

There will be time for a broader, in-depth inquest but, ultimately, every which way you look at it Blues’ plight can be traced back to the decision to sack John Eustace. The irony is that Blues could yet remain in the Championship at the expense of Eustace’s Blackburn. If they do, it will be through final day fortune rather than judgement.

Judgement has long since been passed on Knighthead’s decision to fire Eustace. It cannot be dressed up as anything other than a mistake. Tom Wagner effectively admitted that himself at the recent Open House event.

Tony Mowbray’s illness and absence on the touchline is an uncontrollable factor. Bad luck has been present, too.

The failure to sign a centre-forward in the summer or January was an oversight and the decision to offload Kevin Long benefitted the player but not Blues. There are differing degrees of contributing factors but they have all added up.

The away record is ‘incredibly poor’

Rowett’s words, not mine, but it is difficult to label it anything but. Blues have been absolutely hapless on the road all season and the fact only Rotherham have fared worse is another damning indictment that this team probably deserves to be where it is.

No manager has been able to correct Blues’ away record. The three wins came under three different managers. Rowett’s inability to lead Blues to their fourth away victory could prove costly.

If you include interims, Blues have had twice as many managers as away victories this season. Played 23, won three, drawn five, lost 15. And still Blues fans continue to sell out away ends.

Rowett added: "When you look at away games you have to go and attack the game with the bravery that you do at home sometimes. That was our intention. I thought we came out and wanted to press a little bit higher and play on the front foot. I thought some of that worked quite well.

"We’re disappointed at this stage of the season because you need to win games. I wouldn’t point the finger at the players but, as a club, we are disappointed we’ve only won three (away) games with the squad that we’ve got."

How can we be confident Blues will beat Norwich?

Speaking to Bluenoses before the Huddersfield game, most seemed more confident of Blues picking up a win against Norwich. The confidence stems from Blues’ performances in front of big crowds at St Andrew’s this season. There is also an element of this being the Blues way. Just when you least expect it, they turn it on and win.

Norwich are all but assured of a play-off place due to their three-point lead over Hull City. Provided there isn’t a seven-goal swing, the Canaries will contest the end-of-season lottery.

Norwich haven’t been great travellers in the Championship this season. With 10 defeats from 22 matches away from Carrow Road, Norwich sit 19th in the away league table.

But can we really trust this Blues team? They have just failed to win two pressure matches against teams far inferior to Norwich. We can be hopeful, not confident.

What must happen on the final day

Unless Hull City beat Plymouth Argyle by five goals at Home Park on the final day, Blues will need a victory to give themselves a chance. A win would keep Blues up if Plymouth fail to beat Hull.

Three points will also keep Blues up if either Sheffield Wednesday or Blackburn Rovers are beaten next weekend. Wednesday travel to Sunderland and Blackburn end their campaign at Premier League-bound Leicester.

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