Johnson: Next month crucial in Birmingham's fight to avoid drop

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The Independent Football

Roger Johnson admits Birmingham must rediscover the winning formula and believes a run of games to the end of February will be crucial to their survival hopes.

Alex McLeish's side have drawn 11 of their Premier League matches – the highest number in the division alongside Fulham – and are hovering above the bottom three.

Johnson knows that successive matches against West Ham, Stoke, Newcastle and Everton in the next month will have a major impact on their chances of avoiding the drop.

The central defender said: "I'd rather win two and lose two than all these draws. Draws are OK but they are not going to get you up the League.

"We are still in that basement battle and only picking up three points from matches is going to get us out of that. We are in a battle but we've got a run of games soon against sides that are around us to the end of February. They are our key games and we've got to win them at home."

Johnson will have to adjust to a new central defensive partner for the remainder of the season after Scott Dann's long-term hamstring injury. But he has faith in either Liam Ridgewell or Martin Jiranek to fill the breach. He said: "It is tough for Scott. I am gutted for him. We had a good partnership. But Ridge has got to step in and fill his boots and, being a centre-half, I am sure he will do it. Martin is also good. We've seen him at Millwall in the FA Cup game and in a few other cup games."

West Brom are set to step up their bid to sign Aston Villa striker John Carew, and current leading scorer Peter Odemwingie would welcome the rivalry from any new arrival. The Baggies are expected to move for Carew now that Darren Bent has completed his club-record move from Sunderland to Villa.

Baggies manager Roberto di Matteo had already confirmed Carew is a player on his radar, but Odemwingie, who has netted seven goals this season, will thrive on the competition.

The Nigerian international said: "Will I welcome a new striker? You cannot avoid this. Every team has competition between players. It's something that must be there and we have it now. I'm not the only player who can play and score but just at the moment they [the club] feel I'm in a better condition and I'm confident in front of goal. Tomorrow it might be someone else because we have 40-odd games a season. If someone else comes in and he's good then maybe you will need to do extra that you've never done before to get a shirt. I know that."

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy believes there is no guarantee Darren Bent will instantly produce the goods for relegation rivals Aston Villa if his £18m move from Sunderland is completed. McCarthy has to deal at the other end of the market to Villa, who have already signed midfielder Jean Makoun from Lyons for £6m.

He has no complaints about having to compete on an uneven playing field but also knows money does not ensure automatic success.

Former Sunderland manager McCarthy said: "Good for Villa. I wonder what Martin [O'Neill] is thinking? It seemed to me that they wanted to sell players. But good luck to them. There's nothing we can do to affect it.

"I'm sure the midfielder [Makoun] coming in will find out how difficult the Premier League is. Bent has been there, seen it and done it, but it doesn't always work out that moves are seamless. He's had a great time at Sunderland, but it didn't go so well for him at Tottenham."