Jamaicans hold Nigeria
© AFP

Nigeria's preparations for their forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers got off to an unconvincing start as they were held to a goalless draw by John Barnes's Jamaica at Millwall in London.

The game was overshadowed by an incident two minutes before half-time in which Sheffield Wednesday's Jermaine Johnson seemed to shove linesman Darren Cann after squaring up to Marseille's Taye Taiwo, resulting in both players being sent off. But that was a rare moment of intrigue in an unexceptional game that struggled to catch fire.

Over 5,000 turned out at the New Den, but few can have been entertained. Barnes spoke before the game of the need to instil pragmatism in a nation that privileges dribbling and tricks, so perhaps he drew satisfaction from the spoiling skills of Rudolph Austin and Jason Morrison.

Jamaica may already be out of the running for FIFA World Cup qualification, but they had the better of a sedate opening. Nigeria held the ball for long periods, but their insistence - not for the first time - on funnelling everything through the Portsmouth forward Kanu slowed them down to the point of impotence. Jamaica were rather more direct, such threat as they offered coming from wide.

Bastia goalkeeper Austin Ejide, selected ahead of Vincent Enyama, who had angered coach Shuaibu Amodu by arriving in London only the day before the game, was far from convincing in coming for an early Marlon King cross, and was fortunate to nick the ball away from Luton Shelton with an outstretched boot. A cross from the other flank, from the right-back Tyrone Mears, then fell for King at the back-post, but he snatched at the shot and missed his kick.

Gradually, though, Nigeria began to pose more of a threat - albeit a one-paced one. Amodu's side can certainly retain possession - whether they can do anything of use with it is another matter. Lokomotiv Moscow striker Peter Odemwingie headed over from Nsofor Obinna's left-wing delivery just before the half-hour, but this was a flat performance from Nigeria.

And then, after 43 minutes, a game that had been sleepwalking towards half-time took a most unexpected twist as Johnson and Taiwo clashed on the touchline. Whether because of that or because Nigeria came out with more attacking intent, the second half was far more open.

An early error from Danny Shittu let in Shelton, who was denied by the feet of Ejide, but from then on it was all Nigeria, with Inter Milan's Nsofor Obinna particularly prominent. It was from his cross that Odemwingie headed another chance over and then three times he picked out the Getafe forward Ike Uche from the right.

Uche, despite his prolific form in Spain, was wasteful. He hit his first effort straight at Shawn Sawyers, and the twice saw the Jamaican keeper tip headers over. Shittu rasped a drive just wide from 30 yards, but Sawyers's body language suggested he had it covered.

And then, with 18 minutes remaining, Nigeria almost threw it away. Ejide flapped terribly again, pushing Omar Daley's cross to Wolry Wolfe, but recovered to save the substitute's effort.

Another substitute, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, then blazed wide after finding space at the top of the box, suggesting deficiencies in Nigeria's rearguard. Nigeria begin their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a trip to Mozambique next month.