City unchanged against Millwall
Posted: Saturday, August 19th 2017
Saturday, August 19th 2017
Free-scoring City were held to a goalless draw as Millwall’s uncompromising approach earned the Londoners a point at Ashton Gate.
The Lions were physical and direct but that is not to say they did not cause problems, with both teams hitting the woodwork as the game finally opened up in the last 20 minutes.
Lee Johnson resisted the urge to make changes to his side, who were playing their fifth match in 15 days, but new signings Niclas Eliasson and Cauley Woodrow were among the substitutes.
City have grown accustomed to taking early leads so far this season, having scored in the first 16 minutes of all four previous games in all competitions.
But instead it was newly-promoted Millwall who took the initiative, forcing seven corners in the first quarter of an hour.
Frank Fielding remained largely untested, barring a couple of awkward high balls he did well to collect.
City are a team who like to set a quick tempo and put the opposition on the back foot, but Millwall’s spoiling tactics were making life difficult.
The visitors were quick to break up play with petty fouls and as a spectacle the game lacked rhythm.
Discounting speculative early efforts from Jed Wallace and Steve Morison, there had not been a scoring chance to speak of for 35 minutes.
City’s biggest threat was coming down the left and the combination between Joe Bryan and Jamie Paterson, while at the other end Fielding had to be alert when Bailey Wright’s header back almost sold him short with Lee Gregory lurking.
City produced their best passage of play of a turgid first half when Paterson and Josh Brownhill vacated their touchlines to link up before Bobby Reid was flattened in the box as the home supporters appealed for a penalty in vain.
Millwall were more than content to soak up pressure and launch balls into the channels for strike duo Morison and Gregory to make the most of.
The plan very nearly worked when the pair stayed forward and Morison latched on to a ball over the top from ex-City loanee George Saville, crossing early towards his partner who was only kept at bay by some crucial last-ditch defending from Wright.
With two minutes of added time signalled, Famara Diédhiou went into the book as frustration levels grew, before sliding in at the far post as Brownhill’s teasing cross just eluded the stretching striker.
Johnson would have wanted City to play quicker and there was certainly more urgency about his team from the restart.
Reid negotiated a yard of space outside the box and hit a low shot that needed to be tipped around the post by Jordan Archer.
From the resulting corner, Paterson’s devilish cross was almost converted by Eros Pisano.
But before long the game reverted to type and became disjointed again, so the City boss turned to his bench on the hour.
Callum O’Dowda replaced Brownhill on the right, while Marlon Pack made way for the experience of Gary O’Neil in the middle of the engine room.
O’Dowda made his mark when he ran away from Morison and straight into the back of Shaun Williams, who conveniently blocked off the Irishman and won himself a free kick.
Then O’Dowda’s clearance that struck O’Neil sparked pinball in the City box that resulted in Fielding making the save of the match to deny Wallace’s half-volley from 12 yards.
Johnson’s final roll of the dice was to introduce debutant Woodrow, signed on a season-long loan from Fulham on Thursday, for Diédhiou.
But it was one of the club’s longest-serving players who came closest to breaking the deadlock.
Surging forward from left-back, Bryan traded passes with fellow Bristolian Reid and tried his luck from 20 yards with a shot that curled away from Archer’s dive but cannoned against the crossbar and looped back into play.
At last the game was looking stretched, but Millwall were not afraid to commit bodies forward.
Substitute Tom Elliott’s cutback somehow missed everyone before Elliott himself met a free kick from the right with a downward header that struck the base of the post.
Woodrow saw a shot blocked and Wright headed into the arms of Archer as City hunted victory, but even five minutes of stoppage time could not separate the sides.
In the last of those, Fred Onyedinma forced a vital low stop from Fielding, before Pisano threw himself in the way of Saville's follow-up to preserve City's clean sheet.