Birmingham City look safe as they prepare for Preston North End trip

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As Preston North End look to give their fading play-off hopes the kiss of life at Deepdale on Saturday, opponents Birmingham City look to have done about enough to avoid relegation.

On Wednesday their 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic at St Andrew’s lifted them on to the 50-point mark.

That is five clear of Hull and Luton in 22nd and 23rd place respectively.

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While North End manager Alex Neil is at pains to point out his side are not mathematically out of the top-six running, it would need a sudden form dip from Cardiff for them to stand any chance.

Birmingham City scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz (left) in action at Charlton Athletic on Wednesday nightBirmingham City scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz (left) in action at Charlton Athletic on Wednesday night
Birmingham City scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz (left) in action at Charlton Athletic on Wednesday night

Not to mention, hoping that Millwall and Swansea above them drop points.

With that in mind and the relative safety of the Blues, Deepdale’s final game of this extended season looks to be something of a dead rubber.

Neither side have any sort of recent form in their locker.

Preston’s only win since the return from lockdown was the 3-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday last week.

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Birmingham are without a win in 12 Championship games – 13 if you include an FA Cup defeat at Leicester.

That run stretches back to the middle of February and saw them slide down into relegation trouble.

Their midweek draw with Charlton halted a run of four defeats and was a first point on the board for caretaker duo Steve Spooner and Craig Gardner.

They left it late to claim a point, Lukas Jutkiewicz equalising in the third minute of stoppage time.

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Scott Hogan had missed a penalty for them in the first half and when Charlton went in front, Hogan’s miss looked like it was going to be costly.

Reflecting on the game, Spooner said: “It took until the 93rd minute to get that equaliser, can you imagine if the stadium was full?

“The players showed that resolve and resilience in an empty stadium and I think that’s an absolute testament to the players’ desire to get a result for this football club.

“That determination, the amount of second balls we won, tackles we put in, the distances we ran – the stat man tells us that was the highest return of shots and shots on target since October/ November time.

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“I wouldn’t want to say it’s safety because we are focused on winning two more games. Of course you want to get as safe as you can as early as you can but we want to go to Preston and show that level of performance again and we won’t be far away with that.”

Jutkiewicz’s late equaliser took his tally for the season to 15 in the Championship.

He will team up in attack alongside Hogan against North End, Hogan having netted seven in 15 games since arriving on loan from Aston Villa in January.

The Deepdale clash will be one of Jude Bellingham’s last games for the Blues, with the teenager set for a summer move to Borussia Dortmund.

A £22.5m fee has reportedly been agreed for the talented midfielder who only celebrated his 17th birthday less than a month ago.