The hesitant Brentford promotion suffered another setback as Birmingham bolstered their hopes for Sky Bet Championship survival with a hard-earned point in a 0-0 draw.
The Bees wasted a string of clear chances, with a lack of clinical finish, quality with the final ball and brilliant saves from Blues goalie Neil Etheridge costing them dearly.
Jonathan Leko could have won for the visitors with a six-on-four counterattack and a cross shot in added time that was only blocked by a desperate leg from Brentford.
Thomas Frank’s side looked like the shadow of the free-pass outfit that cut the sides at the ribbons earlier in the campaign, confidently in a shortage.
Even Ivan Toney’s touch-in-goal abandoned him as officials offered him little protection against the physical presence of former Bee Harlee Dean and Kristian Pedersen.
Mathias Jensen set the tone extravagantly for the Bees, turning down a good chance to give his side a dream start six minutes after skiing Pontus Jansson’s pass with the gaping goal.
Birmingham should have taken the lead 10 minutes later when former Bee Scott Hogan’s cross shot found Gary Gardner at the far post, but he could only direct his first shot off the post.
The hosts came close at the half hour mark when Mads Roerslev was inches away from the connection with Bryan Mbeumo’s whipped cross at the far post.
Sergi Canos should have broken the deadlock moments later when a stunning deep ball from Vitaly Janelt released him – but his chip above the Etheridge run drifted a few inches wide.
Top scorer Toney stung Etheridge’s fingertips with a dazzling 25-yard drive after a beautiful ball crossing from Canos, before Jensen’s shot after a nifty five-man move suffered the same fate a minute later.
Brentford nearly made his way through the Blues ‘steadfast defense after the restart, but Canos’ determined run and pass on Mbeumo’s path demanded too much of the Frenchman and Etheridge quickly left his line.
The keeper had to be at his best seconds later to bring Toney’s searing half volley back to full length safety as the game began to open.
Birmingham’s heart was in their mouths in the 65th minute when Canos took Jensen’s pass and Marc Roberts’ push sent him flying – but the Birmingham man escaped punishment.
Etheridge had to be at his best again in the 76th minute, going all out to tip Mbeumo’s smart header to substitute Emiliano Marcondes’ cross in front of the post.
It was from start to finish as the game ended with Brentford, who drew their last four, unable to turn their possession and superior technique into goal.
What the managers said …
Brentford Thomas frank: “The first half was very good and we created a lot of chances. If we had taken one it would have been a completely different game – but we didn’t, we are here and that ‘ is 0-0.
“The first goal would have been so important for us, but it is also essential for us to look at the performances and they were not bad. Is it the quality, the good margins, chance, confidence or luck? I’m not sure but we are – not quite the well-oiled machine that has destroyed everything in this 21-game unbeaten streak. “
Birmingham Lee Bowyer: “The players got something they deserved through hard work. To come here and take a point from a higher side like Brentford is quite an achievement.
“We would cause them problems sometimes and they caused us problems, which I knew and expected. But when our keeper was called in, he stepped in and made saves so overall, I would like to think we did. In fact, in the end., I was thinking ‘we’re gonna fuck this’. “