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Millwall 2-3 Birmingham City
Millwall’s survival hopes were dealt a huge blow when they were beaten 3-2 at home by Birmingham City.
Billed beforehand as a game the Lions must win, they instead fell behind to Jordan Ibe’s 18th minute opener.
Steve Morison equalised 12 minutes later but the home side quickly shot themselves in the foot by falling behind again within five minutes to Andy Shinnie’s goal.
Nikola Zigic’s header made it 3-1 early in the second half and even though substitute Simeon Jackson pulled one back from the spot on 88 minutes, it came far too late to prevent Millwall slipping to the foot of the Championship table.
Ian Holloway made four changes from the side beaten 2-1 at Leeds United on Saturday.
DJ Campbell came off the bench at Elland Road to score Millwall’s goal and was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up.
Morison returned after being ineligible to face his former club under the terms of his loan deal against his former club.
Also back in the XI were Ryan Fredericks and Jimmy Abdou.
The quartet to miss out were Mark Beevers, Ed Upson, Fred Onyedinma and John Marquis, the first named trio at least having the consolation of a place on the bench.
In a bizarre twist of fate, both teams were captained by Paul Robinson, every reporter’s worst nightmare.
Owen Garvan’s clever ninth minute pass released Martyn Woolford down the left but his cross was poor and easily cleared.
Morison was denied twice by Darren Randolph in the space of a couple of seconds, with Campbell heading straight at the Blues keeper from the resulting corner.
And Morison really should have done better on 16 minutes when he got the better of the visiting defence, only to lift his effort over the bar.
However, it was Birmingham who broke the deadlock two minutes later when the ball fell to Ibe on the edge of the area and his shot flew in, despite David Forde getting a hand to it.
The advantage lasted just 12 minutes as Morison burst through and his angled drive went in off Blues skipper Robinson, much to the obvious relief of an anxious home crowd.
But they were back on the edge of their seats five minutes later when Birmingham restored their advantage as Shinnie headed home from Tyler Blackett’s delivery.
Having started the game with three at the back, Holloway decided to bring Fredericks back to make it a traditional for man defence, with Alan Dunne filling in on the opposite flank alongside the central duo of Paul Robinson and Shane Lowry.
Garvan was unfortunate to see a free-kick fly just off target before the break but despite being largely dominant, it was the Lions who went in at the midway point with an all too unwanted and familiar feeling of being behind.
There was a double change at the break from the hosts as Dunne and Lowry made way for Jackson and Beevers.
Campbell had an early penalty appeal ignored when his cross hit the arm of a Blues defender, but he was so close to the Millwall striker the referee ruled he couldn’t have got out of the way and instead awarded a corner.
But the Lions defence was opened up as Chris Burke left Woolford for dead down the right and delivered a perfect cross for Zigic to head home from six yards.
The Lions were almost back in it straight away when Garvan blasted just wide after Morison’s header had fallen into his path, but Abdou really out to have done better when he blazed well over the bar from inside the area.
Holloway made his third and final switch just after the hour, throwing on Stefan Maierhofer for Campbell.
Referee Scott Mathieson decided Aaron Martin had made a fair challenge on Jackson inside the box, again rejecting pleas for a spot-kick from the home supporters.
Abdou was unfortunate to see an effort blocked before tempers frayed seconds later in a brawl just outside the box, Maierhofer heading wide once things had calmed down and the free-kick had been swung in.
Woolford was the next to see an attempt fail to hit the target, and the Millwall player was fortunate at the other end when easily dispossessed by Zigic only for an unmarked Shinnie to fire over when it looked easier to score.
Millwall’s poor evening was summed up perfectly when Jackson was denied by Randolph only for Maierhofer to whip the ball back in and Garvan to glance a header just wide.
Hope was restored two minutes from the end when Jackson was fouled in the box, dusting himself down before coolly placing the resulting penalty straight down the middle.
Beevers headed straight at Randolph from Garvan’s free-kick deep into stoppage time but the Blues were never really in any serios danger of throwing victory away.
Millwall remain in very serious trouble.
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Millwall: Forde, Dunne (Jackson 46), Robinson, Lowry (Beevers 46), Fredericks, Abdou, Garvan, Woolford, McDonald, Morison, Campbell (Maierhofer 61). Subs not used: Bywater, Bessone, Upson, Onyedinma.
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