Twitter – James Donnelly (@Eytexi) and Megan Clibbens (@ClibbensMegan )
Neither side can feel hard done by after a tightly contested fixture, Birmingham extending their unbeaten home run to five games despite going ninety minutes without tallying a single shot on target. The hosts accumulated just 0.06PsxG (post-shot expected goals) to the visitors’ 0.78PsxG and, if anything, should feel fortunate that goalkeeper John Ruddy was able to hold onto his seventh clean sheet of the season.
The low tempo was a common theme throughout, the first shot of the game coming in after six minutes as Millwall’s Charlie Cresswell found Zian Fleming on the edge of the Birmingham City box. Nonetheless, he was unable to build upon his team-leading tally of five league goals this season.
A very tame first-half only presented two other chances, both for the hosts. After fifteen minutes, Birmingham’s Maxime Colin found a pocket of space down the right-hand side and crossed to Troy Deeney who scuffed his effort wide of the far post. Nearing the end of the first half, Emmanuel Longelo whipped in a pinpoint cross onto the head of Scott Hogan. However, the City number nine couldn’t beat the first defender, bringing an end to the first 45 minutes.
The second half began lively, with ex-Manchester United winger Tahith Chong causing the Millwall defence all sorts of problems, beating three men before drawing a foul twenty yards from goal in the fiftieth minute. Just six minutes later, Chong made way as a part of the first substitution of the game.
The hour mark came and went without either side having had a shot on target. Billy Mitchell finally broke this trend after sixty-three minutes as his twenty-five-yard strike rolled tamely into the grateful hands of Ruddy.
The following 10 minutes saw each side fail to convert, despite creating their best chances of the game. A precise flick from Birmingham substitute Juninho Bacuna found the feet of Scott Hogan – he found Maxime Colin just inside the Millwall penalty area who’s return-ball escaped the outstretched Hogan by a matter of inches. Millwall substitute Tyler Burey then beat Dion Sanderson to a loose ball on the half-way line, going one-on-one with the experienced Ruddy who denied him at the last opportunity.
From then onwards, the tempo declined once more; both sides seemingly content to take the one point.
Key Performances and Statistics
John Ruddy (3 saves, 15 recoveries) and Maxime Colin (2 key passes) provided sparks in an otherwise disappointing showing from the hosts. A consistent inability to sustain possession really hampered the Birmingham City momentum; they completed just 67% of attempted passes, 35% 0f attempted long-balls, and 13% of attempted crosses. Maxime Colin’s ability out wide is emphasised by the fact that he completed 2/3 of his attempted crosses – the only completions by any Birmingham City player. Furthermore, it must be noted that Tahith Chong’s early removal really removed a spark from the Birmingham City attack.
Dan McNamara (3/3 successful tackles, 11 recoveries, 3/6 ground duels won, 5/7 aerial duels won) and George Saville (1/1 successful tackles, 8 recoveries, 5/6 ground duels won, 2/3 aerial duels won) put in strong defensive shifts for the visitors. Meanwhile, George Honeyman put in a solid all-around performance (2 key passes, 3/4 accurate long-balls, 4/5 tackles won, 5/10 ground duels won, 2/2 aerial duels won). Again, the problems appeared in maintaining possession as Millwall completed just 66% of attempted passes, 29% of attempted long-balls, and 6% of attempted crosses.
Overall, a lack of willingness from both sides to play out from the back cost them what could have been an important three-points. Instead, a drab game only briefly showed small signs of seeing goals.
Birmingham City: Ruddy (7); Sanderson (6), Dean (5), Trusty (5); Colin (7), Chong (6), Bielik (5), Mejbri (5), Longelo (4); Hogan (6), Deeney (5). Subs: Bacuna (6), Jutkiewicz (5), Hall (5).
Millwall: Long (6); McNamara (8), Cresswell (6), Cooper (7), Wallace (6); Saville (7), Mitchell (6); Honeyman (8), Flemming (6), Bennett (6); Voglsammer (5). Subs: Burey (6), Bradshaw (5), Styles (5).