Date: 17th March 2017 at 9:17pm
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When you’re going through a tough patch as Birmingham City are, it’s not the best time to play against Newcastle United. The Blues haven’t beaten the Magpies in their last 9 matches against them and confidence isn’t exactly high at St Andrews, that’s for sure. Newcastle are at the top of the table and having spent big in summer, a Premier League place is their only target. For Birmingham City that used to be the target, but a poor run of form since Christmas has led us to be looking over our shoulder at relegation. I never thought that I would be wanting Bristol City to lose so that we are even further from the drop. But that’s where we are and we need results and fast.

Newcastle are the team in town and it has been difficult to choose a one to watch for this game as there are so many good players to choose from in this ‘toon’ side. They just seem to be able to rotate their squad with ease and whoever fits in, does a decent job. They’re like a steam roller; just picking up results after results. But for me, one player really typifies their desire to get into the top flight and that is winger, Matt Ritchie. A special mention for Karl Darlow who I actually think is their best player but confidence is that low at the minute that I can’t see us being up that end of the park much for him to really have an effect.

I often criticise wingers for their lack of tracking back and defensive work. In my opinion, when you don’t have the ball everyone defends and when you do, everyone attacks. It’s not a case of just being an attacker or a defender. But ever since the days of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, wingers seem to be under the false impression that they don’t have to do the dirty work. Matt Ritchie has no such problem. He works harder than anyone on that team. If he loses the ball, he works tirelessly to regain it. He is just none stop going forward and coming back. It means that our wingers and fullbacks will have to have the same energy and commitment in order to match it or it will be a long afternoon for the blue boys.

It’s not just his effort that stands him ahead of others. He has the ability to match. He has done some of the most wonderful cross field passes that I have ever seen this season. It really is almost like watching Paul Scholes in his prime and I’m not exaggerating. We need to stay tight to him to try and stop him even if he is deep because he can pick a pass when a pass doesn’t seem on. He has the vision to spot the run and the execution is always done so well.

He does play on either side too and they like to regularly switch this up so we do need to be aware and not switch off when this occurs. It’s all about staying focused when you play Newcastle as they do often play triangular and have a lot of movement. It does seem as though even the manager has given up on us getting something out of this game but we are at home and we have to start showing some fight like we did against Wolves. Blackburn Rovers beat Newcastle home and away and we are a better side than them so why can’t we put up a good defensive display and see what happens?

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