A 10-man Birmingham held on for a point, and their eighth draw of the season, away at Brentford on Tuesday night.
First-half goals came from Michael Morrison’s header for City and a Josh McEachran free-kick for the home side, who are still unbeaten at Griffin Park this season.
It was a game with one heated moment that stood out, when Blues midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld and then manager Garry Monk were sent off just after the hour.
For Birmingham, this was a big opportunity to dispel the memories of coming here last time – they were dispatched 5-0 by Brentford in February, and it was one of the final nails in the coffin for former boss Steve Cotterill.
Under Garry Monk this season they’ve already clocked up more draws than they did for the entirety of their last campaign, but he’s insisted that Birmingham deserve more than their form, and just one victory, suggests.
But the visitors didn’t immediately set out to take the game to Brentford. Although the Bees had control of possession to start with, they too struggled to get a clear shot away. Romaine Sawyers came closest as the ball fell to his feet just yards from goal, but his poked effort was blocked by Kieftenbeld.
Birmingham then had two golden opportunities of their own to grab the opener. Jota, who was proving a vital threat on the right wing against his former club, whipped low ball in on the break. A slick dummy from Che Adams saw it through to strike partner Lukas Jutkiewicz, who had time and just the keeper to beat. But Luke Daniels made a great save as he tipped it round the post. It wasn’t seemingly Jutkiewicz’s night, as a similar scenario unfolded minutes later, a header falling at his feet in the box. With just Daniels in his way again, his shot was palmed wide.
But City didn’t have to wait much longer for a goal. As Jota’s following corner was curled into the near post, centre-back Michael Morrison rose high to flick his header over into the far corner, going in off the woodwork. It was a wake-up call for Brentford, who’d given the Birmingham attack too much room in the final third.
Similar to their first and only win of the season against Leeds just 11 days ago, the visitors then sat back comfortably, waiting for Brentford to slip up again. But the Bees still had a hand in the game, and clawed back an equaliser just before half time. Former Chelsea youngster Josh McEachran’s powerful free-kick from the right flank flew over the wall, and Lee Camp could only touch it into his own net. The home crowd were alive again. It was the 25-year-old's first goal in senior football, and you could see what that meant to him.
Things took until the hour mark to get going again in the second half, as the chances and atmosphere both dipped. Brentford looked to seize possession again, and in came fizzing efforts from McEachran and then Alan Judge from a tight angle. It kept Birmingham on their toes, but it wasn’t enough to beat Camp.
The game was certainly lacking intensity for long periods, but as if it was all being saved up for a big crescendo, it all suddenly bubbled over when referee Tim Robinson brought the game to a halt 66 minutes in. An altercation off the ball between Neal Maupay and Kieftenbeld lead to the latter receiving his marching orders.
It was a heated moment of confusion, with most of the Birmingham team, boiling with rage, dashing to surround the referee by the touchline. As the anger spilled over into the dugout, it took more than five minutes to clear the air, with Garry Monk also being sent off in the process. The home fans were cheering all the way as the Birmingham boss trudged slowly across the pitch towards the tunnel. It wasn’t obvious what caused the incident, but the visitors were quite clearly unhappy. Jutkiewicz made that clear when he was booked for dissent as he was substituted.
Winger Sergi Canos came close as Brentford piled forward to make use of the extra man as the clock ran down. As his cross was returned to him via a defensive header, his follow-up shot sped past the right-hand post.
Brentford tried to make use of the time on the ball they were allowed, as the Blues piled behind the ball. They knew it was more about maintaining now than going for the win. Crosses came flying into the middle, but the City back line of Morrison and Harlee Dean were sturdy in the air.
As the game headed into its seven minutes of extra time, chances were still coming for the Bees. As Dean Smith’s men charged forward, there was the sense they could grab a late winner. Henrik Dalsgaard’s diving header in the box should’ve been the goal needed to break the deadlock, but for Camp’s heroic save as he tipped it just over. Birmingham somehow hung on, and made away with their point.
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