Birmingham must keep it up

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The Independent Online
Trevor Francis sends out Birmingham searching for a third successive Nationwide First Division win at Charlton tonight aware of his side's tendency to blow up against lesser-fancied opposition.

Francis was delighted with City's performance in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Wolves in front of nearly 23,000 fans at Molineux. That followed on from their 3-1 home success over the leaders, Bolton, which attracted 17,000 fans in another highly charged atmosphere at St Andrew's. But Francis knows just how important it is for his side to come up with the goods in the less glamorous-looking games, particularly on their travels.

City have produced inept performances in a succession of away matches at Oxford, Portsmouth and Port Vale which have undermined their promotion credentials. However, after an away win against Wolves they are now looking to relaunch their campaign to climb into the Premiership.

"I was very pleased with the way we performed at Wolves. It was our first away win of the season. The confidence was there after the win over Bolton and we came through another test in front of a big crowd. But at Charlton there will probably be eight or nine thousand fans at the game and it will be different circumstances. There obviously won't be the same kind of atmosphere as on Sunday," Francis said.

"We've played in front of similar sized crowds in a few recent away games and not performed at our best and the team has to learn to win in small stadiums. The important thing to remember is that there will still be three points to play for whatever the size of the crowd and I will be looking for the same kind of performance as on Sunday."

There are unlikely to be any changes from the side, with the former Everton defender Gary Ablett set to be on the substitute's bench.

After Birmingham's success the Wolves manager, Mark McGhee, aims to pick his team up for tonight's trip to Stoke City, hinting that he will move back into the transfer market unless his players start producing the goods. The defeat means Wolves have taken only nine points from 10 home games and they have had to rely on their away form to keep them within touching distance of the promotion pack.

McGhee said: "There is no crisis here. It is only a crisis in that we are ninth and we would want to be higher. It won't be a crisis if we can take four to six points from our next two games at Stoke and Crystal Palace. I still think we can get things right and if it is with the players already here, then fine, but if not, and we need to add one or two then so be it.There is nothing I can do if the players are not prepared to take what we do on the training ground into a game."

Steve Corica has been recalled to the squad and the former England midfielder Geoff Thomas is in contention to start his first game for 20 months after a series of knee problems.

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