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Report: Blues 0 Millwall 2

Garry Monk’s side found it difficult to unlock a resolute visitors’ defence, Blues resorting to efforts from distance – two fizzing Craig Gardner shots the closest the hosts came.

BCFC

Below-par Blues slipped to a disappointing home defeat to Millwall at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy.

Ben Thompson’s first-half brace secured a much-needed three points for the struggling Lions.

Garry Monk’s side found it difficult to unlock a resolute visitors’ defence, Blues resorting to efforts from distance – two fizzing Craig Gardner shots the closest the hosts came.   

Monk made four changes from the side that lost to Aston Villa at the weekend. Gary Gardner returned after being ineligible to play against his parent club, whilst Connor Mahoney and Kerim Mrabti were recalled. But the most noteworthy team news came with the selection of Isaac Vassell for his first start since returning from long-term injury. Lukas Jutkiewicz made way, the striker not named in the 11 for a Championship game for the first time this season.   

Monk’s men had an early foray into the Millwall area on four minutes. Harlee Dean’s commanding header flicked on by Wes Harding to Che Adams who then slightly overhit his attempted pass towards Vassell. The former Luton man had a race for the ball with Lions keeper David Martin and went over in the area. The referee deemed it simulation and booked the Blues striker.

Blues continued to make the early pressing but were punished for overcommitting men forward as the visitors mounted a rapid counter-attack on 13 minutes, Lee Gregory flying down the right flank before pulling the ball back nicely for Ben Thompson. The Lions youth team graduate, who chalked up his 100th appearance for the London club at the weekend, celebrated his centurion status with a smart side-footed finish to break the deadlock.

Che Adams looked to get his team back into it on 18 minutes, but his shot from a narrow angle was comfortably saved by Martin.  

Things could have got worse for Blues when Ben Marshall picked up a loose pass midway into the home team’s half and attempted to lob Lee Camp, the ball fortunately drifting just over the bar.

But Neil Harris’s side did take advantage of a strangely lacklustre Blues side to double their lead on 32 minutes. And it was Thompson who did the damage again. This time it was all his own work as he picked up the ball wide on the left and, with acres of space to run into, he did just that before firing a low shot under the body of Camp.

Blues’ attempt to respond was led by Dean who embarked on a charging run towards the Lions area before being tripped 25 yards out. Mahoney bent the resultant free-kick around the wall but also just past Martin’s right-hand post.

Shortly before the interval, Mahoney found some space on the left wing and delivered a dangerous cross which just evaded Kerim Mrabti as he slid in at the far post.

Blues made a more positive start to the second-half and had the ball in the net within four minutes, frustratingly Mahoney’s low driven effort from Vassell’s toe-poked interception was ruled out by the assistant’s offside flag.  

Craig Gardner, introduced off the bench for Mikael Kieftenbeld after the break, flashed a volley just over the bar on 55 minutes as Blues continued to search for a way back into the contest.

The older Gardner brother certainly had his shooting boots on and let fly with another wicked half-volley just before the hour, the ball searing inches over the upright.

His younger sibling also had a go from distance shortly afterwards, Gary Gardner a few yards off target with his low shot.

Jacques Maghoma and Jutkiewicz were thrown into the fray two-thirds of the way through proceedings and the pair combined to create an opening on 71 minutes, the winger’s lofted cross met by the striker, but his header bounced narrowly wide of Martin’s left-hand post.

Blues huffed and puffed in the closing stages but never looked like grabbing a lifeline as they fell to a third successive Championship defeat.

Blues (4-4-2): Camp; Harding, Dean, Morrison, Pedersen; Mrabti (Maghoma 59), G Gardner, Kieftenbeld (C Gardner h/t), Mahoney; Vassell (Jutkiewicz 59), Adams.
Subs (not used): Dacres-Cogley, Davis, Jota, Trueman.
Booking: Vassell (4)

Millwall (4-4-1-1): Martin; Romeo, Pearce, Cooper, Ferguson; Wallace (Hutchinson 90), Tunnicliffe, Thompson, Marshall (Meredith 84); Leonard; Gregory (Morison 66).
Subs (not used): Elliott, Williams, O’Brien, Archer.
Goals: Thompson (13, 32)
Bookings: Marshall (61), Cooper (65)

Attendance: 20,151 (466 away)    

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