PNE boss Alex Neil ready for new-look Birmingham

Preston's win over tomorrow's opponents Birmingham City in September spelt the end for Harry Redknapp as Blues boss.

Friday, 19th January 2018, 10:00 am

Less than two hours after the 3-1 victory at St Andrews, Redknapp paid the price for a poor start to the season and was sacked.

The vacancy was quickly filled by Steve Cotterill who has a brief to get Birmingham out of relegation danger.

Cotterill’s men will arrive at Deepdale second bottom of the Championship but having found a bit of form of late.

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Sam Gallagher is set to lead Birmingham's attack at Deepdale

Although they lost 3-0 at home to Derby last Saturday, the Blues had won three on the bounce before then.

North End boss Alex Neil is anticipating a very different game to the one in the West Midlands four months ago.

That is both in terms of the make-up of the side and their approach.

Neil said: “Harry left after our game at their place, Steve has come in and of late they have won three of the last four.

Sam Gallagher is set to lead Birmingham's attack at Deepdale

“They will have an element of confidence even though they lost their last one.

“Birmingham are showing signs of recovery and in this league most teams can put a good run together.

“We have to make sure such a run doesn’t start for Birmingham this weekend.

“I think they will be a very different team to the one we played earlier in the season.

“Personnel-wise, there has been quite a significant shift of lads who played that day.

“They’ve changed quite a lot, the big lad Sam Gallagher is up front now with Boga and Maghoma off the wings.

“In the middle of the park Ndoye hasn’t been playing and the wee boy Liam Walsh, who was on loan from Everton, has now signed for Bristol City.

“We’ll be well prepared, we’ve watched five or six of their games recently.”

Birmingham’s form has picked up since the end of last month.

Their Boxing Day defeat to Norwich was a seventh game without a victory but they hit back by beating Leeds 1-0 on December 30.

Cotterill’s men won 2-0 at Reading on January 2 and then knocked Burton Albion out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win.

However, their former boss Gary Rowett returned with Derby County last week and oversaw a 3-0 victory for the Rams.

Cotterill felt the scoreline was a touch harsh on his side. The former Burnley boss said: “I don’t think it was a three-goal game and it was a tough one to take.

“I don’t think we deserved to get beat, certainly by three goals anyway.

“But it’s that old adage: you need to take your chances when you’re on top.

“There are things there that we need to work at again on the training ground, there are a couple of disappointing aspects when you look at their goals.”

Birmingham have not yet done any transfer business in the January window.

However, two of the squad signed contract extensions this week – midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld and left-back Jonathan Grounds putting pen to paper.