Four goals in their last nine games, no goal in five away from home and now six points off the play offs with nine games remaining. Birmingham City have it all to do if they are to squeeze into a top six position and compete in the end of season play-offs for a place in the Premier League. Their recent form suggests that it will be quite an ask for The Blues to get a run together which will be enough to shift Sheffield Wednesday from that sixth place spot. Putting it quite simply, the goals in Gary Rowett’s team have dried up in the past few weeks and, as a result, they haven’t picked up the points that could’ve put them in the driving seat.
On the final day of the emergency loan window, Rowett secured the services of Northern Ireland international striker Kyle Lafferty on loan from Norwich. It looks to be an excellent coup for the club due to Lafferty’s recent exploits for his national side. His seven goals in qualifying helped Michael O’Neill’s side reach their first ever European Championships in France this summer. For now though, Lafferty will be looking to change the fortunes of a Birmingham side who have won just two games from their last nine. They have just about done enough to keep themselves within a shout of promotion at the end of the season and it will be Lafferty’s task to help fire them to it.
However, it might not be so straightforward as some may think. Lafferty has struggled at club level in the last few years, failing to nail down a first team spot with Norwich. He has played just 13 minutes of Premier League football with The Canaries this season and scored just the solitary goal for the club since his move from Palermo in 2014. At 28 years of age, Lafferty is hitting the peak of his career and it is important for him to settle somewhere where he can play regular football. There is no doubting that he can score goals, as he has done at Burnley, Rangers and Palermo but the end product at club level has been hard to come by for him recently. The only real positives that have been keeping him going are his performances for Northern Ireland where he remains a crucial player for them.
As he heads to the Midlands to play under Rowett, he will be fired up, eager to get some much needed game time and Blues fans will be expecting goals. The team are lacking that out and out goalscorer who can guarantee them 15-20 goals a season. If they had that then they would certainly be looking down at those below rather than chasing the likes of Derby and Wednesday above. Jon Toral and Clayton Donaldson are currently tied with seven goals each as the top scorers this campaign and, with just 41 goals all season, it is clear that finding the back of the net has been the problem for the squad. Of course, just one goal can win you a game but when you don’t score and miss gilt-edged chances, as Birmingham have, then you are going to drop a lot of points. As they enter the business end of the season, it might just take a goal or two from someone like Lafferty that could make all of the difference.
Clayton Donaldson is a hugely important player at St Andrews, doing an excellent job week in week out as a lone frontman. But, it is his finishing that has been letting him down and the introduction of Lafferty could spark the team back into life again. It may take just that one chance in a tight game that can be finished by the Northern Irishman and his poacher-like instincts could be vital to the team. His confidence may be slightly knocked by his lack of match action this season but he will take huge belief from what he has done for his national side.
Lafferty will be looking to prove a point to all managers out there that he can be a success again at club level. This move will bring him in from the cold and straight into a nine game battle where it is all to play for in the Championship run in. He will be entering a side with solid foundations, creative ability and he will certainly get opportunities. It is up to him to rise to the task, score goals and, ultimately, help Birmingham get back on track in their play-off push.
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