Millwall had much the better of the chances but couldn’t take any of them as the Bluebirds rearguard held firm.
After three wins on the bounce hopes were high amongst the City following that we could make it four in a row and close the gap to that elusive sixth spot and a place in the playoffs. Around 18 coaches made the journey down the M4 and then via central London to the ground, as City fans were only allowed to the game on club and supporters organized coaches. It was a lot of hassle for those who made the effort to come down, but the two clubs and the police will argue that the game went off peacefully as did the encounter between the sides at Ninian Park in December. It doesn’t make it any more palatable though.
The game was never going to be a classic off the back of Millwall’s FA Cup semi final victory against Sunderland on Sunday at Old Trafford, and that’s the way things panned out. City kept the same starting eleven that turned out at Gillingham on the weekend. Millwall were forced into changes due to injuries to Ifill, Muscat and player manager Dennis Wise. The first half was very dull. Robinson was forced off through injury after the quarter hour, Bullock coming on to replace him. This required a reshuffle in midfield, with Langley moving out to the right and Bullock sitting in the middle alongside Whalley.
City’s only chance of note came when a ball through the centre to Earnshaw saw the Bluebirds striker only able to stab the ball wide from 15 yards. Millwall were reduced to taking potshots from range and City were reasonably comfortable at the back. Margetson made one neat save at his near post from a Dichio header. Parry looked dangerous down the left when City got the ball to him, but was tending to cut inside rather too often. Lee and Earnshaw took a battering from the physical Lions defence and couldn’t really link the play together as well as they would have liked.
The City fans did a great job in trying to raise the team and tried their best to create a bit of atmosphere in an eerily half empty New Den, and the away team would have been the happier at half time going in at 0-0.
The second half was a bit more eventful, being played at a much better pace. Millwall made two half time substitutions, no doubt in an attempt to get some fresh legs on the pitch after Sunday’s exertions. One of Millwall’s best efforts came from one of these substitutes, the youngster Elliott only able to shoot at Margetson. The game ebbed and flowed for the first time after half time, with City getting forward when they could through Parry on the wing and Collins’ long diagonal passes out of defence to try and exploit Earnie’s pace. You could sense even with half an hour to go that the game was drifting to a nil nil. Harris shot over when he should have done better, and Elliott had a fizzing effort go wide of target.
Lawrence did his best to change things, bringing on the ineffectual Campbell for Parry and changing to a 4-3-3, and in the last five minutes took off Lee for Gordon. Alan Lee looked dead on his feet and should have been taken off earlier.
City did get balls into the box, but the quality wasn’t there and the front two really didn’t get a sniff. A late high ball into the box saw Langley challenge the keeper and win the ball, but there was no-one there to pick up the pieces.
The bookings flowed in the second half, Croft was booked for a challenge that probably didn’t deserve it and might have been sent off shortly after as he seemed to lose his cool a bit. Vidmar, Lee and Bullock all picked up bookings, as did Millwall’s FA Cup hero Tim Cahill.
As the game drifted to a close, Cahill put an unnecessary tackle in on Whalley in the centre circle and the referee had no choice but to send him off. The Australian international was furious, tearing off his shirt as he stormed off down the tunnel. A little excitement in a poor spectacle as the game drifted away to a 0-0.
Positives to be taken out of the game were that City’s defending was excellent, Vidmar in particular was excellent again, but we did lack a focus in midfield. Kavanagh for example would have made a real difference in a tight game like last night. For all their hard work Whalley and Bullock aren’t dynamic enough to create any sort of attacking threat, and we couldn’t get enough decent service out to Parry on the left. Millwall will be much happier with the point than we are, the three points were essential last night, but never mind, I think we got what we deserved, we didn’t create enough to contemplate getting the win.
A long wait before the coaches were let out and most City fans got back to South Wales in the small hours of Thursday morning. Fair play to the fans that came down, it really was a superb turnout, especially compared to the 250 who came to Ninian Park in December from Millwall.
On to Palace on Saturday who got an excellent 2-1 win away at Rotherham on Tuesday, followed by the long trip to the JJB stadium to play Wigan on Tuesday night. City will need to be on top form to get through the Easter programme unscathed.
Report from FootyMad
Millwall suffered an FA Cup hangover as they failed to score at home for the first time this year.
The Lions' Cup success had taken its toll on the side with player-boss Dennis Wise, captain Kevin Muscat and winger Paul Ifill all missing through injury.
And the players who made it onto the pitch looked as if their minds were on the final in Cardiff rather than their Welsh opponents, who had their own play-off hopes to consider.
Despite the drab performance, Millwall move up to fifth with this point - but boss Wise will be getting concerned at the end of season fixture pile-up.
Cardiff forward Robert Earnshaw was the most dangerous of the visiting team and should have put his side in front on 26 minutes but sliced wide when faced with an open goal.
And apart from a couple of Danny Dichio half chances Millwall fans had little to shout about on their side's homecoming from Old Trafford.
It took the half-time introduction of teenager Marvin Elliott for Millwall to show any bite and he came within a whisker of scoring on 54 minutes when he forced keeper Martyn Margetson into a diving save.
He then provided Neil Harris on the hour only for the striker to blaze over the bar when he was under no pressure.
Eight minutes later 19-year-old Elliott let fly with a 25-yard bullet which curled just wide of the post, before Dichio's effort took a deflection off a Cardiff defender to go out for a corner.
Cardiff's visiting fans were surrounded by a strong police presence, and the match itself was played in poor spirit with a total of eight players booked by referee Mick Fletcher, before last Sunday's goalscorer Tim Cahill was sent of in injury time for a second yellow card.
Gary Croft was lucky to stay on the pitch for the visitors when he appeared to stiff-arm David Livermore just two minutes after being booked.