Brentford extended their unbeaten festive run to three games with another away draw, this time against Birmingham City. The Bees added a 0-0 draw with Birmingham in their last game of 2018 to a 1-1 away to Bristol City on Boxing Day and a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers just before Christmas to make it five points from three games with one goal conceded. It was a hard-earned point for The Bees, but it was not a game that will live long in the memory.
On a mild December afternoon, there were few chances and neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled. Brentford had the better of the first half without creating clear-cut openings while Birmingham committed more men to attack after the break and had spells of pressure. But Daniel Bentley earned his second clean sheet in three as Brentford continued to build an unbeaten run.
The game started at a sedate pace. With Josh McEachran in the centre of their midfield, Brentford dictated the play in the early stages but did so at quite a low tempo. Birmingham were happy to sit deep and allow Brentford to have the ball, showing no inclination to attempt to win it back until The Bees got in to attacking positions. The chances that came in the early stages went the way of the visitors but there was nothing clear-cut.
An acrobatic effort from Sergi Canós was the only real effort at goal in the opening 20 minutes and that was cleared deep inside the Birmingham penalty area. A good move started by a raking McEachran pass allowed Neal Maupay to find space in the penalty area and he went over with Harlee Dean at his back before he could get a shot away, but referee Peter Bankes said no offence had been committed. Canós then had a shot blocked when a pass to Maupay in space was on before attempting to pick out a pass to the same team mate seconds later when a strike on goal seemed the better option.
Birmingham had been non-committal in the opening exchanges. They had sat very deep and waited for errors in Brentford’s passing, which had been few and far between. They were solid in defence and looked to get the ball long to striker Lukas Jutkiewicz so they could play in Brentford’s half. A long-range shot from Jota was comfortably saved by Bentley but as the game went past the half hour mark, neither goalkeeper had been troubled.
A spell of Birmingham pressure had seen Ezri Konsa slice a cross over his own crossbar and Jutkiewicz get on to a knock down and turned sharply but his shot was blocked. Che Adams also lashed well off target for the hosts but Brentford put together a couple of moves late in the half that could have led to the opening goal. After a long spell of possession, Ollie Watkins released Moses Odubajo and his deep cross was met on the volley by Rico Henry but it bounced past the far post. Maupay then missed the target with a header, under pressure from Wes Harding, after more good Brentford play.
The half ended with neither team having come particularly close to scoring but the opening stages of the second period were more open. Birmingham had a higher starting position and looked prepared to allow Brentford space in order to gamble on winning the ball back in attacking areas. Wide players Jota and Jacques Maghoma were in more advanced positions and there were openings in the early minutes of the second half.
Adams saw a shot blocked after turning on the edge of the penalty area and then lost out to a brave Bentley, who went in with the boots, when it appeared a Yoann Barbet header back may be falling short. A short free kick was then worked to Maikel Kieftenbeld on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot was blocked by Julian Jeanvier. The Brentford defender was in the action at the other end, turning a Watkins corner towards goal but straight in to the arms of Lee Camp. The Birmingham goalkeeper also got down to hold on to a cross-cum-shot from Henry but only at the second attempt.
As the game entered the final quarter it started to boil over. It had been a little feisty throughout with neither team giving an inch and Mr Bankes was not always on top of the action meaning both sets of players were becoming frustrated with his decision-making. Maupay was often picked out for special attention by the official and was booked before being removed just past the hour mark. But he had taken more than his fair share of kicks from a no-nonsense Birmingham side that veered either side of the fair play line and the French striker was by no means the only player Mr Bankes should have had his eye on.
As the minutes ticked down neither team was prepared to over-commit as they chased the winner but there were chances at both ends, Bentley held on to a Jota free kick before Odubajo played in Watkins for a shot that Camp got down well to save. A move that involved Canós and Watkins led to a shooting chance for Romaine Sawyers, who was also involved earlier, but his effort on the stretch was blocked.
And that, ten minutes before the end, was the last chance of the afternoon. Balls were pumped long by the hosts but the Brentford back three held firm and faultless and the hosts were unable to create anything. The Bees could have done more with their late possession but settled for their point and continued their Christmas run.
Birmingham City: Camp; Harding, Dean, Morrison, Colin; Jota (sub Mahoney 82 mins), Kieftenbeld, G. Gardner, Maghoma; Jutkiewicz, Adams (sub Bogle 79 mins)
Subs (not used): Trueman, C. Gardner, Scarr, Dacres-Cogley, Lakin
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Odubajo, Sawyers, McEachran (sub Yennaris 79 mins), Henry; Watkins, Maupay (sub Benrahma 66 mins), Canós (sub Judge 82 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Dalsgaard, Mokotjo, Dasilva
Bookings: Sawyers (26 mins) (sixth of season), Jeanvier (52 mins) (second of season), Maupay (64 mins) (sixth of season), Barbet (75 mins) (third of season), Yennaris (90 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 23,909 (787 Bees fans)