Ridgewell blows the whistle on Birmingham's slow starters

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The Independent Online

Liam Ridgewell has urged Birmingham City to start producing 90-minute performances ahead of today's vital Premier League relegation meeting with resurgent West Ham at Upton Park.

The defender is "puzzled" at his side's worrying trend of starting matches poorly, trailing at half-time in recent games to the Hammers in the Carling Cup, Coventry in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the league before fighting back to claim two wins and a League draw with City.

Ridgewell knows Birmingham cannot afford the same scenario against his former club as West Ham look to avenge their cup exit. "We've got a never-say-die spirit and we've got to keep taking that into the games," he said yesterday. But it would be nice to take it into the first half of matches and try and get ahead. We seem to be going behind in games. It is obviously disappointing. We are trying to work on it and to get ourselves in front.

"We've got to try and take that desire we show in all the second halfs from straight off. We are working on it. It is a bit of a puzzle. But it is good in the other way, in that we are going right to the end in games."

Ridgewell is prepared for a backlash from West Ham, who led 3-1 on aggregate in the Carling Cup semi-final before losing 4-3. West Ham lifted themselves off the bottom of the League with their midweek victory at Blackpool.

Ridgewell said: "It will be a massive game again, like the cup game. They will want to try and get a result after we beat them in the Carling Cup. But we've got to start getting some wins to take us away from relegation. We've got to go down there and try and take maximum points off them."

Ridgewell is aware that too many draws cost Birmingham their top-flight status two years ago and they have shared the spoils in 12 of their 23 games this season. He said: "We've got to try and convert the draws we've been getting in league games into wins. When we went down a couple of years ago, we also featured in a lot of draws. We've got to try for three-pointers to move away from the bottom. We've got to try and go into the game with a winning mentality."

Birmingham, who have been short of goals, are hoping their loan signing Obafemi Martins, once of Newcastle, will obtain a visa in time to make his debut at Upton Park. Ridgewell said: "I've played against him when I was at Villa and he is a quality player. He has got pace and scores goals. Hopefully, he can do the same for us. He will be hungry to make an impact back in the Premier League."

Birmingham will check on the fitness of striker Cameron Jerome (ankle), influential midfielder Barry Ferguson (ankle) and Roger Johnson (calf) before finalising their side.

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