Gary Rowett says pressure is off out of form Birmingham

Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett
Image: Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett says he is looking forward to Friday contest

Birmingham boss Gary Rowett believes dropping out of the top six in the Sky Bet Championship has removed the pressure from his players.

Rowett's men welcome Cardiff to St Andrew's on Friday night seeking to end a run of five games without a win and attempting to recapture their early-season form.

When Birmingham won four on the bounce at the end of September and start of October they were in the Championship's automatic promotion positions, but only one win in nine games since then has left them four points adrift of the play-off places.

"I think when you're doing well you're always looking for the next level," Rowett said at his pre-match press conference.

"You always look for the next bit of how you can improve. That's maybe me being a little greedy or I've pushed some too hard, and that's just a by-product of trying to be ambitious.

"Occasionally you need a defeat or two to settle everything down and take the pressure off.

"Maybe falling out of the top six took the pressure off one or two of the players, so we can now relax a little bit and play our football."

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Rowett says he has identified positive signs in the last two games as Birmingham have picked up points in away draws at league leaders Middlesbrough and Preston.

"We've gone back to a little bit of what we are, rather than try to be something else we try to be better at what we do," Rowett said.

"That's the key to what we've learned, try not to change too much.

"The reason we've done so well is we've found a system which suits the players and sometimes you find by changing it - like we did against Huddersfield - you almost get further away from the solution."

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Victory could see Birmingham move above Cardiff into seventh, but Russell Slade's Bluebirds have suddenly hit the goal trail with 10 in their last four games and a second successive away win will take them into the top five.

"There's more improvement to come, we can do better," Slade promised at his pre-match press conference.

"It's a big period for everyone in the top 12. It's very tight.

"Anyone who can get three or four wins, who can get some momentum, or a little run will be in a good position in the new year."

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