The winless run: the vast majority of teams go through it at some point during a season and no matter how hard they try, it seems like there is little that can be done to prevent it.
God knows Birmingham City are having that moment right now.
The Blues had suffered a slow start to the season thanks to the three-pronged circumstance that meant the cloud of financial trouble hung over a squad that was coming to terms with relegation and the extra demands of the Europa League. But a winter revival momentarily put Chris Hughton’s men third in the table with automatic promotion in their sights.
That revival has been well and truly stopped in its tracks. Since spanking Leeds United 4-1 at Elland Road at the end of January, Birmingham have won just two of their last eight league games (as well as failing to beat Chelsea in two FA Cup ties) and the rigours of a long, hard campaign have left them out on their feet.
After no wins in their last five in all competitions, Blues currently sit in eighth position in the Championship and Hughton, who has performed such a fine job considering the hand he has been dealt, will be alarmed at the slump.
It is not an irretrievable situation by any means – Birmingham are only one point off sixth-placed Hull City after all – and I do expect the Blues to get their act together and finish the season in the play-off places. The question is: how long will their winless run go on?
I think it may well continue for another weekend at least. Birmingham host Middlesbrough at St Andrews on Saturday in a key game at the top of the Championship and at the prices, I wouldn’t want to be touching Birmingham given their current predicament.
Middlesbrough have won five of their last ten in all competitions (which also includes draws at Leicester and Sunderland) and have scored 18 goals in the process.
Blues are priced up in bwin’s 3way football betting market as the odds-on 91/100 favourites, with the draw quoted at 11/5 and Tony Mowbray’s Boro chalked up as the 31/10 outsiders.
I’ve spoken about Birmingham’s form and it is actually at home that they have been most disappointing in recent weeks.
They currently lie second in the home table for the season as a whole but they have won just one of their last six at St Andrews and have scored only four goals in that sequence.
Worryingly, they have conceded six in the last three home games – two of those, against Chelsea, are forgivable, but less so are the four shipped against Derby County and Nottingham Forest.
And with Birmingham coming into the match on the back of a 3-1 reverse at Leicester City in midweek, Middlesbrough will smell blood.
Mowbray’s men are inconsistent but are very capable on their day and are, it must be remembered, three points and three places above Birmingham in the table.
Their away form suggests Boro have enough about them to take advantage of the Birmingham malaise. The Teesiders boast the second-best away record in the Championship this season and are scoring plenty on the road.
Middlesbrough have won five of their last ten in all competitions (which also includes draws at Leicester and Sunderland) and have scored 18 goals in the process. Yes, they were pretty abject in losing 2-0 to Leeds last weekend but that was at the Riverside, where they have flattered to deceive all season.
I’ve been a happy backer of Middlesbrough on the road this year and at 31/10 I’ll be on them again to extend Birmingham’s miserable run.
But if you’re looking at this fixture and thinking the game could well be tight – and you’d be right to think that – then perhaps take the 37/20 on Middlesbrough in the 2Way special market.
In other words, you can back Mowbray’s men at this price and your stake will be returned if the match finishes all square.
Recommended bet: Middlesbrough in 2Way special market @ 37/20
Outside punt: Middlesbrough to win @ 31/10
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