A draw always seemed a likely outcome though if for no other reason than this is what we always seem to do at Millwall lately – the previous four Millwall v Cardiff matches having ended all square. If the result was no great surprise, then the 0-0 scoreline may have been as it’s only the second time this season that we have failed to find the net in a competitive game – with the other being the televised draw with Leicester in September, it’s reassuring that, so far at least, no goals for Cardiff does not mean we end up being beaten.
Even so, I must admit to a tinge of disappointment at the result just as I had after the 1-1 draw at Coventry in our previous away fixture. With Coventry in danger of becoming marooned at the bottom of the table, I daresay my reaction to that result is understandable, but it is more a tribute to how well Malky Mackay and his squad have done so far that I should even contemplate yesterday’s match as being a case of two points dropped and not one gained. Millwall may well be involved in the relegation struggle, but they are no mugs at home and a couple of defensive loan signings from Villa look to have shored up their defence somewhat.
Talking of defence, it’s now some time since we last conceded – I make it 389 minutes or nearly four and a third matches since we let in a goal and, even then, I’m still not convinced Lucas Jutkiewicz’s header at the Ricoh Arena was over the line despite what Malky Mackay says! My painstaking research (!) tells me that this is our best run in that respect since we went five matches without an opposition goal in our 1998/99 promotion season – although I must admit that Nottingham Forest, Blackburn, Birmingham and Millwall is a slightly more impressive roll of honour than Leyton Orient, Exeter, Torquay, Scarborough and Chester!
Joe Ralls in a battle for possession with Millwall's Liam Trotter - apparently. the 18 year old was assured and looked at home at this level in what was his first league start.
Praise for this sequence has to go to a goalkeeper and back four which yesterday included a couple of changes with Mark Hudson and Andrew Taylor returning from injury for Anthony Gerrard and Lee Naylor respectively, but it has to be said that having five players in front of them who are all natural midfielders rather than one or two who are strikers or wingers cum midfield players must be a help. One of the potential drawbacks of operating with a 4-5-1 that does not seamlessly convert to a 4-3-3 with a front trio who feel fully at home in advanced positions though is that your goalscoring potential suffers and three goals from our past four league matches suggests that sides are finding ways to cope better defensively with our system that, usually, only includes one genuine attacker.
Millwall manager Kenny Jackett admitted after the game that he had changed the way his team usually set up because he didn’t think he could allow Peter Whittingham a free rein in midfield like Birmingham had done last week. Instead, he went some way towards following Forest’s example of putting a man marker on City’s matchwinner – the scoreline suggests that Jackett’s policy was a success, but it’s worth noting that Whittingham seems to have been involved in our three best attacks with his early shot being saved by Mildenhall, his pass bringing a header from Kenny Miller that the keeper also denied and he was also involved in the creation of the late chance which saw Rudy Gestede (returning as a sub after missing ten matches with a hamstring problem) blaze over the bar. However, with the home side hitting the woodwork in the first half through Henry and then missing a great opportunity in the dying minutes when sub Henderson’s close range header bounced up and over the bar, it appears that this was a match that City could not really have claimed to be unlucky to miss out on the three points.
To finish on a bit of a hobby horse of mine, this now makes six draws from eleven away league matches and, for me, this is the only slightly unsatisfactory aspect of our Championship campaign so far. Now, I’m not really talking about yesterday here, but more the four away matches that have ended 1-1 in which we have scored first. Although some of the teams below us made up some ground yesterday, Southampton’s and West Ham’s draw and defeat respectively meant that yesterday’s stalemate didn’t hurt us in relation to the top two. Three points rather than the one from one of the matches at Portsmouth, Blackpool, Leeds and Coventry though would now have us level on points with West Ham, while victory in two of those games would have us just a point behind Southampton at the top – again, it’s down to how well we have done under our new manager that I keep on about this subject, but, as of now, we are genuine top two candidates and too many away draws after scoring first are keeping us out of the automatic promotion spots.