The dark nights are drawing in quicker and the sky is turning black. But don't despair, as that means that those cold, romantic midweek games are back in South Bermondsey. Matches under the glow of floodlights always seem to have a bit more magic surrounding them and for this affair it is Birmingham City who are the visitors to The Den.
After an October which saw ten points from a possible fifteen and a Manager of the Month nomination, Neil Harris' side are in a bit of a downward slump at the moment and are yet to record a win in November after defeats against Brentford and Norwich City, and a home draw with Bolton Wanderers. The Lions are desperate for a win to put some daylight between them and the bottom three and lessen the din from that creaking trapdoor to League One.
Although tipped for relegation at the start of the season, Birmingham City find themselves comfortably in mid-table, but recent results have seen the Blues winless in their last three games and the Midlands side will be equally as determined for the three points. With a recent defeat against fierce rivals Aston Villa still fresh in their minds, a return back to winning ways is vital.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 3-3 Birmingham City, 23rd October 2012 – Millwall were in the driving seat at half-time and three to the good after two goals from Chris Wood, either side of a Chris Taylor strike. The Lions, however, squandered the lead and Kenny Jackett’s side could only watch as Mahlon King stole the show with a second half hat-trick. It could have been a total disaster for the home side if it had not been for David Forde who twice kept out Nathan Redmond.
Tom Bradshaw still remains on the sidelines for the Lions after surgery to repair cruciate damage. Ben Amos missed Millwall's fixture with Bolton Wanderers due to the conditions of his loan agreement and could return to the starting line-up, but he will have to dislodge Jordan Archer who produced a man of the match performance in the 1-1 draw with the Trotters. Tom Elliott who came off in the first half against Wanderers could also miss out on this fixture.
Garry Monk has no new injury worries, but David Davis and Isaac Vassell remain on the physio's table with ankle and knee injuries respectively. Jota is also facing a race against time to be fit for the visitors after recovering from a hip injury.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
What can be said about Jutkiewicz that hasn’t been said already this season? The forward is in the form of his career and along with the ten goals he has already for the Blues, he also has registered three vital assists. A dangerous goal scorer who already has a league hat-trick to his name, this will be a long evening for the Millwall defence who will be tasked to stop the man who has scored seven in his last seven.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week’s ‘Who are ya?’ we speak with Lee Hinton from @wearebirmingham. This week we ask Lee what the fans think of Garry Monk, how he thinks the season is going so far for the Midlands club and who he thinks the danger men are that the Lions need to look out for.
1. You were one of the favourites for the drop at the start of the season but are comfortably sitting in mid-table. How do you think the season is going so far?
So far this season has exceeded all expectations for all Blues fans. Considering the past few years we’ve had to watch poor football, under poor managers, leading to even worse results; it’s been a pleasant change. We’ve shown how well we can complete at this level going to places such as Stoke & Leeds as huge underdogs, but come away with three points on both occasions. The Leeds specifically was fantastic, it was a great performance which deserved the points - not many teams have gone to Elland Road and won recently either! A lot of the good run has been down to our two strikers, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams, who are on fire currently. The two of them have 18 goals between them, and have been a handful for most defences this season.
Recently we have struggled over the past 3 games, where we seem to be leaking goals which is unlike the standards that Garry Monk has set for the defence. It was disappointing to get beat at Villa Park over the weekend, but a lot of our fans were proud of the way the team continued to fight until the death - whereas previous Blues sides might have crumbled under the derby day pressure.
2. Garry Monk seems to have done a great job and stabilised a ship that was seemingly destined to sink to League One after just avoiding relegation year after year. What do the fans make of the manager?
Garry Monk has already achieved hero status amongst Birmingham City fans. From the moment he walked into the club last March he’s been a breath of fresh air. He’s got us back to being hard to beat, made St Andrews a fortress once more and formed an impressive bond amongst the supporters. Unlike previous managers that have come before him, Garry Monk seems to really get Birmingham City as a Football Club - he is able to relate to our supporters which has helped to re-create the bond between the players and fans.
3. Both Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams have both been in fantastic form and have 18 goals between them. What has been their secret to their goal scoring success?
Both Lukas and Che have been absolutely outstanding this season. The first month or so both seemed to struggle to get off the mark, and there were question marks whether they were going to be able to score the goals to give Blues fans a successful season - however it’s safe to say they’ve both answered those critics! It’s been fantastic for the club over the last two months to have two in form strikers, who are capable of single handedly turning games around.
I think the main key to their success is game time. It’s easy for a manager to chop and change his strike force until he finds the right formula, but Garry Monk has stuck with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams all season, and over time they have built up a fantastic partnership - arguable one of the most deadly in the division. The big fear for most Blues fans is one of the two getting injured.
4. Although not a derby, Millwall vs Birmingham has always been a tasty affair. How can you see this game going?
There have been many great memories over the years for us Blues fans against Millwall. Speaking personally, it’s always a game I look forward to. There’s a little bit of a rivalry between the two clubs which helps to create and atmosphere leading to exciting games.
Millwall have a very impressive record at The Den, so I’m expecting a very tough game. We have struggled recently so it will be a big task for us to put it right. Both teams don’t always play the prettiest of football, so I think it will be an old school tough battle with set pieces playing a key role.
5. Which player(s) do Millwall need to be wary of?
Aside from the obvious two, Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz, Connor Mahoney has come into the reckoning over the last few weeks due to injured to Jota and Jacques Maghoma. He struggled to get into games at first but over the last few weeks he’s been continuously improving. If he can continue where he left off at Villa Park, where he was Blues’ main threat, then the Millwall full backs could be in for a tough evening.
6. What do you think the score will be?
Garry Monk want’s Blues to get back to what they were doing best at the start of the season - being hard to beat. It will be a very difficult game on Wednesday, but I am confident that we have enough quality in the squad to come away with a point. I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 1-1 BIRMINGHAM CITY
Both sides need a win to regain any form of momentum they previously had, but I can see the two sides cancelling each other out and producing a score draw. Due to a lack of striking options, Millwall will not be high in the goal scoring charts at the moment with Lee Gregory being the only fully fit striker at the club and as the Blues have two in-form centre forwards, I can see Jake Cooper and Shaun Hutchinson having a tough time keeping them quiet.
Come on you Lions.