Birmingham v Derby
Tuesday December 29, 17:30
Birmingham held at Forest
Birmingham boss Aitor Karanka admitted he was happy with a point even though his Blues side created enough second half chances to leave Nottingham Forest with all three during a Boxing Day non-event at the City Ground. The two teams played out a largely drab and lifeless goalless draw, although the Real Madrid legend found positives in the performance.
Blues’ head coach said that coming into the game on the back of three successive defeats the key was avoiding a fourth – and helping his players recover their confidence ahead of the clash with Derby on Tuesday evening. Overall, Forest had the better of the first half, while Blues were stronger in the second but in truth neither side’s goalkeeper had much to do.
Alen Halilovic was given his first start in a Birmingham shirt and post-match, Karanka said: “The main thing was to not make the same mistakes that we made in the last three games. Then when we were really well and really organised and really consistent on the pitch in the second half we played better, we were more confident and we created a few chances.”
Derby denied at the death
Alan Browne scored a stunning 96th-minute winner as Preston finally broke 10-man Derby’s resolve at Pride Park on Boxing Day. An inspired display by Rams goalkeeper David Marshall looked to have earned County a gutsy point after the 20th-minute dismissal of Martyn Waghorn for an ugly studs-up challenge, only to concede deep into stoppage-time.
Derby, who remain in the Championship relegation places, barely threatened after Waghorn’s early exit and only managed one effort on target – but still seemed set to stretch their unbeaten run to seven games until Browne intervened. The Rams had started encouragingly, although the hosts’ goal threat ended abruptly after the deserved dismissal.
Despite the result, caretaker manager Wayne Rooney was full of praise for his players post-match, saying “I think that’s our best performance of the season. Going down to 10 men and digging in for so long, but always still playing on the break and trying to win the game. I’m really pleased with the players and the attitude and the work that they put in.”
Derby have enjoyed head-to-head supremacy over Birmingham during recent meetings with the Rams completing the double over Blues in 2019/20, whilst taking top honours in half of the duos past 14 league fixtures since 2013 (W7-D6-L1). County have clinched maximum points in four of their most recent seven trips to St Andrew’s, avoiding defeat in each.
Birmingham 2.789/5 have bagged just five wins in 21 Championship contests under Aitor Karanka in 2020/21, although eight defeats – six by one-goal margins – reinforce the idea that Blues work off small margins. The Spaniard’s safety-first attitude ensures City are rarely overawed but goalmouth action can be scarce, leading to an abnormally-high draw return.
Derby’s 2.8615/8 Boxing Day defeat was their first in seven (W2-D4-L1) league fixtures with the Rams recording four successive shutouts before shipping a stoppage-time goal against Preston. Whilst, County have tended to toil at Pride Park, Wayne Rooney’s outfit have earned 56% of their point tally on their travels (W2-D3-L4), adopting a pragmatic approach.
Birmingham have seen just 1.90 goals per-game under Aitor Karanka’s watch, although half of their 10 tussles on home soil have breached the Over 2.5 Goals 2.608/5 mark as both sides have scored in six of those contests. Nevertheless, Blues have fired eight blanks thus far and the Second City side have notched twice or more on only four occasions this season.
Only Sheffield Wednesday’s games are featuring fewer goals per-game than Derby’s tally of 1.65 with a massive 17/20 (85%) paying out in the Under 2.5 Goals 1.501/2 market. With an end-to-end thriller unlikely to unfold and the traditional goal markets too short to support, it may pay to head to the Half-Time Score offerings with 0-0 standing out at 2.486/4.
Collectively, the duo have delivered a goalless opening 45 minutes in 21/41 (51%) of their Championship outings, including 10/19 (53%) when viewing respective home/away duels as matches have tended to be slow-burners. It’s a play that’s paid out in five of Derby’s past six, as well as three of Birmingham’s last four fixtures at St Andrew’s.