Birmingham chase top half finish

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Alex McLeish has challenged his Birmingham players to secure a top-10 finish in the Barclays Premier League - but warned them to beware of a cluster of clubs who could overtake them.

Blues are currently lying ninth and have been in the top half of the table for five months after being tipped pre-season by bookmakers and pundits to be relegation certainties. But their away form has faltered in recent weeks, including Sunday's 5-1 defeat against Manchester City at Eastlands, and McLeish is wary.

"There are teams coming up on the rails like Everton and Fulham. Blackburn have had a great run of results and Sunderland and Stoke are coming up there," he said.

"There is going to be great competition between now and the end of the season."

He added: "There is still fantastic motivation for the players and the tools have not been downed despite Sunday's defeat.

"You can see that and the players want to keep it going until the end of the season. I'm challenging them to finish in the top half."

Blues, unbeaten at home since September, entertain relegation-threatened Hull on Saturday with McLeish admitting there are "things to work on" after City's biggest reverse of the season.

He said: "We have got young centre-backs (Roger Johnson and Scott Dann), rookies in the Premier League, and they have been brilliant this season as have the whole back five.

"I see what happened at Manchester City as a blip but there are things to work on in terms of the next game."

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