Often Partisan

Millwall Match Reflections

Birrmingham City went down to a poor 1-0 defeat against a Millwall side tonight fighting for its continued Championship status. A 50th minute Alan Dunne header was enough to seperate the two teams in what was a poor contest with few chances and fewer moments of quality.

It’s been a long time since I’ve left St Andrews feeling downcast but the feeling which familiar under the reign of Lee Clark returned tonight. It’s one thing going down to a good Derby side that will in all probability be promoted; it’s another thing losing to a team which looks to be one of the worst to have rocked up to St Andrews and that will in all probability be in the bottom six come the end of season shake up.

The game was won and lost in the middle of the park; Italian midfielder Diego Fabbrini was the main difference between the two teams showing some good touches and flair while Davis and Gleeson in particular in the Blues midfield struggled to get their games going. Cotterill looked strangely out of sorts – on a night when a few long shots could have been useful and testing he seemed reluctant to cut inside and have a go. Lloyd Dyer on the left flank looked completely off the pace, and it was no surprise to see him hauled off for Lee Novak.

I think the game also showed up one of Gary Rowett’s weaknesses; against better teams he can set up a counter attacking side that is happy to let the opposition play in front of them and then hit them on the break with pace but against teams which are looking to stifle and sit back there is no real creativity to unlock defences. It’s a problem Blues have had for as long as I can remember in fairness; when Rowett was a player for us I can remember TF having the same problem getting his teams to break down stubborn opposition.

Of course, had Donaldson buried the first half chance he had, or had Grounds’ header been a couple of inches lower than the crossbar this might have been a very different story but a fifth successive draw (or dare I say it a win) would have only glossed over just how poor this performance was. Millwall were deserving of the win in the end purely because they played to a plan that worked; ensuring that no one picked up the second ball from the flicks of Donaldson (and later Zigic) from long punts forward and closing down Shinnie to deny him the space to create any chances on the deck.

Blues have eight days now until their next game at home to Middlesbrough – which will represent a much different challenge. Boro are sitting proudly on top of the division and a performance as poor as tonight’s will see us getting tanked; bizarrely though I wonder if Blues will play better purely because Boro will be more likely to come on to them and attack. Hopefully there will be some movement in getting Michael Morrison fit too, as I think tonight exposed the unhappy fact that Jonathan Spector cannot string together more than two or three good games without a bad one – a more sure footed centre back is a must for what will be a tough test.

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51 Responses to “Millwall Match Reflections”

  • alex hurley says:

    it was an off-night for too many players. It happens. There was nothing in the game i thought, 0-0 would have been the fairest result. biggest worry is up front. Donaldson zigic and novak could have played all night and wouldnt have scored. We need to remember how far GRs bought us with what is a limited squad – we will have nights like tonight, its inevitable. Well be better against boro.

    • harborneblue says:

      Fairest result 0-0? Did you go?
      Millwall could easily have won by more and if it wasn’t for Randolph would have done! Totally deserved win.
      Blues were shocking in several areas Dyer played like his name suggested, Cotterill’s crossing was at times abysmal Davis & Gleeson piss poor, Shinnie played like Lee Clark was boss again & is just too slow.
      The team lacked energy & speed and is desperate of a shake up, but unfortunately don’t think we have the squad to do it.
      Hopefully we have enough of a gap to stay out of relegation fight and here’s to playing the Villa next season!!!!!!

      • des says:

        Agree Millwall could have won by more, that Italian Midfielder of there’s ran the show, however Donaldsons one on one could have massively altered the game if he had scored, lets remember this team is limited in ability and if Cotterill & Shinnie are of the pace we lack creativity, I wouldn’t blame Spector thought he did OK but naturally happy that MM might be back V Boro, Lloyd Dyer what an absolutely shocking player he looks, rarely known anyone make so little impact.


      • alex hurley says:

        For the record yes I went. All I’m saying is on clear cut chances both sides had similar number. Donaldson should’ve scored through on goal before ht. Gray had 2 very close efforts, and we hit the bar.

        Where we are in agreement is that most of the team put in 3 out of 10 performances!

  • Christian Le Fort says:

    Season ticket holder and tonight the performance reminded me of the Clark era. We were very poor with Gleason and Dyer in particular putting in dreadful performances. I think there must be some agreement in place with Watford stating that Dyer must play because I can see no other reason for him being in the side. Both Grey and Arthur are infinitely better players and remain on the bench. Baffling. I’m a big fan of Rowett but he has to realise Dyer is not as good as what we already have and if necessary should send him back. I understand the logic of getting him in just in case Grey went but he didn’t so I think it’s time to reassess the situation and play our best team. Call me old fashioned.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I think that, after the last 3 or 4 games, it’s important that we find someone who can put the ball in the net. For me, that’s the main thing wrong with us. The chances we’ve missed just in those last few games would normally be enough to win us 10 games. Missing chances always results in pressure increasing on the rest of the team. With nearly 2/3 of the season gone, it’s pretty obvious now that Donaldson, Novak and Zigic aren’t going to get any better… or any more prolific. It seems, also, that Rowett doesn’t rate Thomas, which for me is baffling. The midfield, apart from Cotterill, isn’t providing much in the way of goals either.

    So, we have to find goals from somewhere.. whether that’s from inside the club, or outside. It would be a shame to spoil all the hard work that’s gone into the last few months. We can’t keep going through games and losing points because all our main strikers have wonky radars.

  • Jaffa says:

    What has happened to Wes Thomas.Not even on the bench last night?As for last night’s game Rowett said that there would be up’s and downs.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I know Thomas isn’t the best striker we have, but he’s nowhere near the worst. I checked out the games since Rowett arrived… and, in the 16 games, Donaldson and Thomas have been on the pitch together a total of just 79 minutes. It beggars belief.

      • des says:

        Come on Staffs! its not as if WEs Thomas is some sort of super striker! GR prefers Zig & Novak to come on with/for Donaldson. Sadly what lots of fans forget is that you can only play 11 and someone always has to miss out.


      • steve says:

        You can’t really blame the Strikers for last night. We didn’t create anything for them. Donaldson isn’t a target man,so why do we launching the ball up to him ? why have we stopped building from the back? If we’re going to carry on launching it forward,maybe it’s time Zigic got more than 5 minutes.

  • EDD77 says:

    For me this game was a must win with middlesbro ,Ipswich , brentford and brighton to come this month the league could look a little bit worrying come the 1st March,a win last night and we are 14 points clear of millwall now its just 8

  • Big Al says:

    I called it exactly right – we just never win games that we are supposed to. By the same token, we’ll surprise ourselves in some of the tougher fixtures ahead.

  • Raymondo says:

    If I was a Villa fan I’d be a lot more worried. Still looking forward to playing them next season.

  • mel says:

    Without sounding negative the thing that disappoints me with Rowett is his reluctance to change formation when things arnt working. You could see inthe first 15min that counter attacking football wasn’t gonna work last night when they stopped Shinnie playing and defended in numbers. It was the same against West Brom. Its games like these where we need 2 up front.

  • nicko says:

    the only player to stand out was millwalls no 8 he ran the show. i disagree about spectre i thought him robinson and grounds were o/k midfield were poor dyer and coterill were poor donaldson needs a goal.i think the boro game will be different, but gary needs to play grey from the start. kro

    • RichardM says:

      Nah, a “Spector special” last night for the Millwall goal, accurately finding an opposing player’s head in the 6 yeard box from a “clearance” header – what defender ever heads across his own goal? Not the first time he’s done that either, remember Burnely last season?

    • steve says:

      Agree with all that nicko. What has Dyer done to keep Gray out ?

      • Shirley Blue says:

        There are rumours that a condition of Dyer coming to us on loan was that he played. Might be rubbish but if true that sort of thing can be disasterous for team spirit. We seem to have lost rythym and fluency since Dyer came in as he tends to stay out on the left and is very left footed. Before that Shinnie, Gray and Cotterill would swap positions and move off each other.

  • Bluenosegaz says:

    Blues were shocking they rely to much on Cotterill shinnie needs help in midfield Gleeson looks like an overweight kid Davis is an headless chicken. But I though we had been taken over by clark again tonight Rowetts tactics were awful taking Donaldson off when he was our best player he’s the only one who created anything though he missed he did more than the others and he took shinnie off I couldn’t work that one out. Rowett needs to get at least three or four players in before the next game or we will get dragged back in to the relegation zone we are too predictable with no plan B. And has for dyer he lived up to his name he’s awful.

  • Blue lizard says:

    The Honeymoons over by the look of it..teams have sussed out how to stop us…Last nights game was a bread and butter game but Blues didn’t turn up. How does Dyer start over a £5 million + rated Gray? And Spector wasn’t the only one who had a stinker like we knew he would soon…Our wage structure means we have got limited options but we need a midfielder and a striker ,Zigic looks past his best and Novak will never rip up trees, Donaldson is not consistant /clinical enough although he holds the ball up well and I don’t think wes is the answer either….But I’m sure none of this has escaped Rowetts beady eyes …it’s a sign of how far we have come when we were expecting to win a home game but did’t
    chin up!! KRO

  • rhees says:

    Yes teams have worked us out but I trust Garry to sort it out he’s not stupid kr a lambert

  • asif says:

    why do we against the lower struggling sides play one up front? they are there because they concede too much. i would like a manager to be bold and play 2 upfront. opposing managers tell their players to keep it 0-0 til half time. then let the crowd get on the backs and see if they can smash and grab.

    • Trevor Honnor says:

      I agree with this statement about going 442 against lower teams, especially at home. If nothing else it makes a statement that “We are going to try and destroy you”. They are always going to sit back and rescue the 0-0, or nick a goal for a 1-0.
      Supplement the back four with a holding midfielder (Davis perhaps) and a number 8 (Shinnie) who can link up play and create chances/perhaps chip in the odd goal too. These two would need to cover more ground than most but it’s only 90 mins, give them a lie in the next day :)

      I’ve played plenty of football as a centre back and dealing with 2 strikers is wholly different to 1 striker. Especially big, fast and strong lads like Donaldson and Thomas. Zigic also would be a pain because he is awkward, you’d spend the whole game trying to/having to foul him.

      Now that we have been “found out” we need another option/formation. Plan A, part 2 if you like. Keep it fresh and keep the opponents guessing.

      Forgive me for saying it but “Plan Z” is always lumping the ball up for the last 20 (if we are losing) to our big lads to flick on. Not attractive football at all and not what we want to see, but near the end of a home game which we are losing, to a poor team, I’d accept anything that rescues a point.

      Sometimes you have to “win ugly” (especially if you aren’t prepared to change the formation)

  • Mineheadblue says:

    I was disappointed but not surprised really. Over the years we’ve so often do this against poor and struggling teams (who on paper we should stuff). For me it’s a lost opportunity to confirm progress and encourage people to come back and put bums on seats. There was a good crowd for a cold night when the opposition brought less than 300. How many of those will be at the next home game?
    I agree with StaffsBlue about our strikers. In my view we desperately need someone in the Kevin Phillips mode; we are creating chances but not taking them and we’re being made to pay. I don’t think that Donaldson is the answer, although he has a great work-rate. Ziggy has lost it and/or needs more game time. If we can’t get someone on loan, then give Thomas a go!!
    Having said all of the above, I don’t think we should expect anything other than a mid-table finish this season AND THAT REPRESENTS HUGE PROGRESS.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      It’s not the fact that we lost (we can’t expect to win every game) but the way we lost. We seem to be stuck in this rigid formation, where everyone knows their job, but we don’t seem to be able to play any other way. If teams like MIllwall come and stifle our tactics, we need to be able to change a few things, so we can penetrate them down the flanks and get behind them.

      Wingers are only wingers if they can beat the full backs, get past them and create chances or have a pop at goal. If they can’t do that, they’re just another midfielder. The trouble with our midfield, it’s too ponderous at times. Whether they’re concentrating too much on holding their shape and position, I’m not sure but we need to move the ball about quicker and feed the wingers early, so they’re facing goal when they receive the ball. If they’re constantly receiving the ball with their backs to goal and a defender on their backs, the next pass is always going to be backwards or sidewards.

      We’re not playing that bad, we just need more of an end product from each and every player.

  • Bluenosesol says:

    To me last night despite GR saying in advance that we need to set our stall and go after them from the off, the players didn’t look up for a game played before the quietest crowd I have heard at St Andrews in years. They looked like they wanted to be home in front of the fire and cosying up to the missus! 2 months ago GR was our saviour, I am beginning to get more than a little irked by the fickle ones who now think that because we haven’t carried on our storming run, that all of a sudden GR is cracking up and doesn’t have the skills that we initially accredited to him!. Get off his back and support the team. A finish a few points ahead of the relegation three is where we will probably finish up and that will do for me!! KRO.

  • Tony E says:

    Wonder what the contract status is of their number 8, if he is out in the summer then try to sign him. He ran the show and neither Davis nor Gleeson, who had a particularly poor game, could get anywhere near him.

    • Richard Granfield says:

      Fabbrini is on loan from Watford and made his debut for Watford in a 1-0 win over Blues’ in August 2013. He is 24 and has 1 full cap for Italy.

    • RichardM says:

      Totally agree, he was phenomenal, and the best player on the pitch by a country mile – what the f*** is he doing at Millwall?

      He actually made Millwall look quite good which is no mean feat….

  • 5 things we have learned from last nights defeat:-
    1, Rowett up to last night has got the best out of League 1 standard players.
    2, Any loan signings need to bolster the attack not the defence…1 goal in the last 4 games.
    3, The need for a midfield “General” like Fabbrini.
    4, For all his neat footwork Shinnie is still not robust enough for Championship football.
    5, Gray should start every game and Reece Brown should be in the squad.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    With the 4-2-3-1 we play, the wingers are vitally important, so if they have an off day, most of our attacks are snuffed out. If the wingers aren’t having any joy, either replace them, or switch tactics to get them into the game more.

    As Richard G said “For all his neat footwork Shinnie is still not robust enough for Championship football.” Shinnie would probably revel in the space afforded to Premiership players.. but when the opposition detail a man to stand on him the whole game, he needs to be a bit cuter to find space. When he can’t, we need to change tactics a bit, because we don’t have anyone else who can play in that particular position.

  • Dave Mann says:

    A massive bannana skin of a game last night that failed to live upto any expectations and hopefully I see it as only a blip and will propably bounce back strong against boro next week and get at least a point out the game … Not much else to say really except PLAY gray from the start because we only came to life when he came on and that’s a FACT !! Kro

  • John says:

    It seems to me that people are forgetting that Rowett has performed miracles with a bunch of players, who are only just, championship standard. This situation will not improve while Carson Yeung and his cohorts own the club. It appears that because Blues have moved up the table ,since Gary Rowett took charge, everyone has forgotten , that while the present owners control the club, we have no chance of ever getting out of the championship. More protests against these money grabbing owners are needed. Every problem that exists at St.Andrews is the fault of these invisible directors ! It is possible, that Rowett will eventually tire of the restrictions imposed upon him, by these cretins.

    • mark says:

      Why John would GR TIRE, GR took the job knowing the restriction he would he working under, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken it….bizarre comment really……kro

  • andy says:

    I agree with having Reece Brown being given his opportunity in midfield, the kid, along with Koby Arthur is just as gifted as Dimmi Gray.

  • The Flying Pig says:

    How bad was our passing last night? Why can’t a professional player pass the ball to his team mate? Unfortunately, whilst we have some decent players our squad has to be performing well to have any chance of winning games.

    Our crossing was also abysmal. Caddis will usually put a decent ball into the box but there must have been two or three last night that ended up in the stand. Cotterill was poor, I cant understand how he gets away with bottling so many tackles, but I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him as he’s been one of our better players.

    As said by others, we’ve been worked out and now we need to get one or two loanees in to give us a lift. We desperately need some pace.

  • RichardM says:

    Agree with all of the points rasied on here – we were awful and got what we deserved, Rowett can’t justify playing Dyer from the outset instead of Gray, and (IMO) we need to work on a new system 4-4-2 when playing one of the lesser lights at home (Blackpool would be a good opportunity and a similar game I think). I’d like to see Wes Thomas given another chance, and remember when he did play up front with Donaldson in a 4-4-2 (v Ipswich) they looked a useful pairing.

    PS – this DOES NOT MEAN I am anti- Gary Rowett or blind to his achievements at the Blues, just constructive criticism (I know one or two of you take any criticism of Gary Rowett personally!)

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I don’t think anyone is anti-Rowett, but he’s possibly made a few questionable decisions lately and that will always get fans debating. We definitely need to find an alternative to this rigid 4-2-3-1. We need to find an alternative strike force for when Donaldson isn’t scoring (which is a lot) and we need to find an alternative to Shinnie (because people have gotten wise to his game now.) That doesn’t mean these things need to be replaced, just alternated.

      • mark says:

        absolute agree staffs where no is anti- GR BUT IF HIS HALO SLIPS there will always be the outlet lets blame the directors………lol

        lets hope he dont take the vile job…

  • chudlt says:

    We seem to forget we are missing Morrison who has made such a difference to the team. Like everyone else though I think Gray deserves a place in the starting line up. No way is Dyer a better option. He should play behind Donaldson.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Good grief, has anyone else seen the way the BM are gushing over the Vile today?

    “The Birmingham Mail is backing the fans in calling for a new broom at Villa Park. Aston Villa is a proud and noble name in English football. It is an historic club at the heart of our community, a founding father of the beautiful game. But this great club is now on its knees and the Holte End is hurting – and we can no longer stand by and watch that happen. Today the Birmingham Mail makes one simple, stark request to the Aston Villa board: sack the manager.”

    I can’t remember ever seeing the get behind us the same way! Proof positive that it’s a Vile rag.

  • Retired&Weary says:

    I agree with most comments on here. Dyer was dire, so was Cotterill, who’s often as frustrating as Burke was in his last couple of seasons. The Italian lad was by far the best player on the pitch. Our man of the match was Robbo in my opinion.
    Biggest disappointment was that Millwall seemed to want it more than most of our players.
    I personally don’t think Shinnie should have been taken off, he’s about the only one with the skill/touch to take advantage when gaps appear late on. Novak is not the answer. Also can’t understand the Thomas situation; always looks strong & quick when I see him, & he does know where the net is. Again better option than Novak.
    Anyone notice that the pitch has gone all bobbly again. doesn’t help does it?

  • andy says:

    Like most Blues fans I am an old fashioned 442 fan and I think any Blues manager should look to accommodate that, especially at home. We berated McLeish for it and that was in the Premiership! I don’t think the home support will be happy until that system returns.

  • marc says:

    Im not knocking G.R. but since Dyer came we haven’t been the same. I can’t see what he brings to the team. I wonder if G.R. got mixed up and thought he was signing Nathan Dyer ?

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Lambert’s gone.. so looks like the Vile will escape relegation yet again. :-/

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