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Preview: Birmingham V Forest

Both teams enjoyed their Saturdays so we spoke to Matthew Elliott of @bluetintedspex to find out the story behind the impressive start for the Blues.

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Unbeaten, 4th in the table and scoring goals - what exactly is going right?

ME: Pretty much everything right now to be honest, it’s great.  A lot of the praise must go to Gary Rowett and his backroom team, because before he arrived, a lot of these players looked far from Championship standard. The belief he has installed in the players and the team spirit amongst them is just incredible now – a far cry from how things were under Lee Clark.  We might not have the most talented squad in the league, but what we do have is a team of players who are well organised and who understand what role they play in the team which makes us hard to beat. Yes, we’ve had a bit of luck along the way, (some soft penalties, balls crossing the line for the opposition and not given) but we probably deserve it after the last few years.  The team is set up to play to its strengths, soak up pressure and hit teams on the counter attack. Blues will have long periods without the ball, but when they win it back they more often than not, use it effectively.

Gary Rowett must be a god amongst men around your parts. His appointment seemed to click right from the start.

ME: Being a former fans favourite as a player, he was the prime candidate for the job for a lot of fans. Despite that, I don’t think anybody really expected him to come in do what he has done so far, especially given the former managers performance. It’s been nothing short of miraculous. He’s instilled belief and identified areas of the team that need to be strengthened and improved the team.  I’ve touched on it in the previous question, but we’re very hard to beat and we play to our strengths.

We know all about Clayton Donaldson and Demarai Gray - any others who are doing the business?

ME: Yes, Donaldson has carried on from where he left off last season. I doubt you’ll find a harder working lone forward in the league who offers goals and assists. Gray has come on a lot, he has grown physically and mentally. The defensive side of his game has improved no end, whilst he has pace and trickery to scare any defender.

To be honest they’re all doing the business as a unit at the moment so it’s hard to pick any out.  However, the players that probably deserve a special mention are Stephen Gleeson, Maikel Kieftenbeld and Jonathan Grounds. Gleeson, in centre midfield sits in front of the back four with Kieftenbeld. He has a good range of passing, keeps things ticking over and this season he’s added goals to his game which was needed. I think that’s partly down to the partnership he has Kieftenbeld, who lets Gleeson get forward by sitting deeper. Dutch man Kieftenbeld was brought in from Groningen not long after the Tesche deal with your boys broke down. I wouldn’t say he was a direct replacement for Tesche, but he’s certainly made our fans stop mentioning the German all the time. Left back, Jonathan Grounds, looked like he’d never make a Championship footballer under Lee Clark, but under Rowett he’s been our most consistent performer. He’s not missed a league game under Rowett and whilst a competent defender he has steadily improved his forward play this season, he also managed to get on the score sheet against Bristol City too.

This game is sometimes billed as a Midlands Derby - it's not really though is it? Is there any degree of antagonism towards Forest from Blues fans or is it just another reasonably big Championship club currently coming to St. Andrews?

ME: I don’t think there is really any antagonism towards Forest to be completely honest. I think most fans are aware that you are a big club with history.  You have a good away following and you always bring a fair few fans to us, as we do to you. So I think the fans look forward to these games because the atmosphere is usually a little better against teams like yourselves. The only ‘Midlands Derby’ in the league that tends to fuel any antagonism would probably be Wolves who are about 20-25 miles away.

You have enjoyed an excellent start to the season and put four past Bristol City on Saturday. Is there any chance that you’ll mess it all up on Tuesday evening?

ME: We really have, and to be fourth and still unbeaten after 5 games is fantastic. Especially considering we’ve played big spending Burnley and Derby in that time. I certainly hope we don’t mess it up, but we all know what football is like and the good run has to end at some point.

I think it’s fair to say, and I hope you don’t mind me saying, that Forest have had an inconsistent start to the season. But, a win away at QPR on Saturday will have been a big shot in the arm for you, so I expect Freedman’s team to come into the game full of confidence. That said, I have every confidence that Rowett will have the team well drilled and organised as usual, so I can’t see us losing. It’ll be tight, similar to last season’s game at St. Andrews and I can see the score being the same, with Blues sneaking a 2-1 win.

So, Matthew is feeling confident and perhaps rightly so but we looked like a team with a coherent plan and everything on Saturday. This is going to be a close one. You can follow Matthew here.

This is what happened last time we visited St. Andrews: