Take the point and move on

JDB – back in the side leading the line last night.

After Saturday’s defeat; scoring none and conceding three. If you then offered me the result we got last night; a bore 0-0 draw away to a recovering Norwich City side, I probably would’ve taken it.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but with special thanks to the woodwork in the first half, and a couple of smart saves from Bart in goal, we take the point on the board and move onto Saturday’s trip to Hillsborough.

We had the welcome sight of returning manager Gary Rowett back in the dugout, a presence I’m sure helped to re-invegorate the squad in an attempt to bounce-back from the Huddersfield result. We also had a slight change in setup, with the likes of Shane Ferguson, Ben Thompson and JDB (Jón Daði Böðvarsson) back in the Millwall XI for the first time in a long while.

With the above coming in the setup changed with an extra man in the middle of the field, with a 5-3-2 formation instead of the 5-2-3, if these mean much to you when looking at the lineup of the side. Ferguson added that extra man, and from minute one it was quite clear the plan early doors was not to get beat.

Ending with a clean-sheet on the night, the plan obviously worked, with Rowett introducing the likes of Mason Bennett, Shaun Williams and Matt Smith late on. It felt like we could maybe steal the three points, and but for Williams’ last kick of the game effort clipping only the top of the bar, we might’ve just done so.

One strength this side has developed since Rowett’s arrival is demonstrated in the tweet above. Well over a year into his management tenure and not once have we lost two games in a row, over all competitions too. With the introduction of the 5 man defence, breaking records also for shutouts against there is no doubting how much the side has improved in Rowett’s time at The Den.

With Norwich unbeaten since the International break and holding a play-off position pre-match, not a lot of sides in our division will walk away with a 0 against column. Whilst it might be a boring watch or might lead to some criticism for Rowett to setup in this manner, for me we have bigger games to worry about such as the next one up.

Languishing at the bottom of the table, still on negative points after 10 games also, Sheffield Wednesday presents a great opportunity for Millwall to get back to winning ways. With the likes of Ryan Leonard and Mason Bennett sitting out from the start of last nights game, it hopefully presents a chance for them to comeback in and have a match telling impact.

JDB up-front on his own cut a lonely figure last night, it was always going to be a difficult ask for him, and now with the unfortunate news that Kenneth Zohore is now out for pretty much the rest of his loan spell, Rowett needs to think of a new option in that number 9 position. Troy Parrott isn’t far away from a return to action, but without piling on too much pressure I hope he is worth the hype.

Whilst earlier on I give a lot of credit to Rowett for the defensive shape-up of the team, it seems we struggle to get a break up front. With both of his Premier League signings going down with injuries at different points. I certainly hope we can get over that voodoo and bad luck by backing the manager once more in January if necessary. Certainly, if we’re in touching distance of the promise land still by then, the forward line will need to have improved to compete with the likes of Norwich and co.

COYL.

Take the point and move on

Brought back down to earth, with a bang

Connor Mahoney – recalled to the XI on Saturday.

You didn’t really expect Millwall to pickup another win on Saturday did you? I mean, if you read my last post I definitely did believe we would. Millwall at home to Huddersfield, still in a transition under their new manager, with us fresh from a great win up north in Preston, surely we would do the business?!

Well, we didn’t, in fact we got our backside handed to us. Going down 3-0 to a side who actually lost to Preston the weekend before last, showing exactly why we argue as fans that The Championship is one of Europe’s best divisions for competitiveness.

Pre match ahead of Saturday’s game, with manager Gary Rowett still isolating at home having tested positive for the coronavirus, the onus was on the players and interim managers Alex Pearce and Shaun Williams to “go again” and backup their performance from Wednesday night.

Pearce post match was very open with the club in his interview, saying we needed to do more in the forward areas, also sighting that perhaps Wednesdays win took a lot out of the group. You couldn’t disagree with that statement, but both sides were in the same position and it was the visitors who looked more at the races.

Perhaps, with only one day on the training pitch to prepare for Huddersfield it was always going to be a big ask of the players. Especially with changes to the side guaranteed with new signing and goalscorer from midweek Kenneth Zohore missing out through injury.

Upon 2:00pm arriving we learnt that the side had two changes from Wednesday with Mason Bennett also missing out, although later featuring from the bench in the second half of Saturday’s game. Connor Mahoney stepped in for Bennett whilst Tom Bradshaw was selected ahead of Matt Smith in place of Zohore.

It did raise an eyebrow or two with Bennett dropping to the bench, considering the impact he had on Wednesday night. However, I could only imagine this is only due to Bennett’s stop start career so far in SE16, with injuries always looming over the forwards ahead since arriving in January this year. With Mahoney also impressing this month, and unlucky to miss out on Wednesday completely, it does also highlight the growing squad we have.

With that said though, I felt we missed both Zohore and Bennett against Huddersfield. Especially with the pace and rawness of Bennett in the forward line, he offers something unique when compared against our other forward options, and despite huffing and puffing our way through the game Saturday, real moments of quality in the forward areas were few and far between.

Things could’ve played out very differently if we were rewarded a penalty early doors from one of our many opening stage corners. However, despite winning a penalty midweek, with our height advantage, it seems to play against us when grabbling goes on during set plays.

I’m still very much on the fence when it comes to players like Mahoney, his talent is very obvious but blowing hot and cold, more so cold for me is an issue Rowett needs to resolve. Bennett is also likely to have games where his involvement is less, however with the strength and pace he offers, I feel we can afford to carry him more on an off game as compared to Mahoney.

Credit should be given towards Huddersfield, they caused our backline problems with their forwards interchanging amongst each other, dragging our central defenders often out of position and punishing us when chances were presented to them. The second goal has to go down as another Bart error, and hopefully we’ve firmly seen the back of them as the timing of the mistake Saturday in my eyes proved fatal for the result.

Positives have to be taken though from our last five matches, only losing one and winning three. With Rowett now back as of today, hopefully we can setup well ahead of Tuesdays trip to Carrow Road, an unhappy hunting ground for as long as I can remember for a Millwall side. Norwich also seem to be gathering their own form with no defeat in five and surging into the play-offs at the weekend.

With the underdog tag put back on us tomorrow, hopefully we can pickup a good result but more importantly show more performance wise and quickly forget about Saturdays defeat.

Come on Millwall…

Brought back down to earth, with a bang

Despite adversity, Millwall’s momentum is increasing…

Stepping up as manager this week – Alex Pearce in interim charge of Millwall

If Gary Rowett isolating at home last week ahead of a home game against Barnsley was bad, having the rest of the coaching staff then isolate before a trip to Preston must’ve been worst case scenario at Calmont Road on Tuesday morning.

Step forward club captain Alex Pearce, and the ever present and now player-coach Shaun Williams. Two leaders amongst men, the pair then return home on Wednesday night from Deepdale, Preston with three points, clean sheet, and a great team performance too.

Having now picked up three wins in four since the international break, with the other result being a draw against bogey side Barnsley, the form guide is beginning to read pretty for The Lions.

Albeit the team was picked by Rowett and setup to exactly what the manager feel would provide the best chance of winning, credit cannot be taken away from the pair. With the odds stacked firmly against Millwall on Wednesday night, for the players on the pitch to provide a 10/10 performance such as that, highlights the respect and trust they have in Pearce and Williams.

From minute one the game was there for the taking, with Preston below par and manager Alex Neil full of excuses post match. However, we still needed to do enough to win and in the second half, thanks to a real moment of quality from Mason Bennett, who teed up Jed Wallace to square the ball to full debutant Kenneth Zohore. We got the crucial breakthrough to grab a firm grip on the tie.

Zohore later went off the field with by the looks of it was either a shin or calf related injury, having got his first start of the season and a goal to go with it, I hope that isn’t a lengthy lay-off for the loanee. In glimpses I felt like we saw what the forward has to offer our side, not only was he a vocal point for the team to aim for when under the pressure at the back, he seems a willing runner and has the ability to turn defences and have them running back towards goal.

Millwall’s first goal of the night at Preston Wednesday

The first half wasn’t for the purists, we were on top with chances but the killer end ball seemed to be missing. Especially with Mahlon Romeo, who seemed to get into acres of space throughout the first half, and yet was doing his best to ensure anything but a good ball was delivered into the box for Zohore to get on the end of.

Preston rarely troubled us with only one noteworthy contribution required from Bart in goal, rushing out to his right of the goal and closing the angle to prevent a real Preston effort on goal. Highlighting his real quality, on a quiet night for the goalie he was still on his toes to make sure his sheet was still clean.

The second goal of the night for Millwall came from a corner, with defender Muarry Wallace getting caught with a late attempt to clear the ball from Preston, going down to earn our other Wallace, Jed the chance to get his fourth of the season. Jed delivered, as we come to expect from the forward when 12-yards out, sealing the three points for Pearce and Williams.

The celebrations at the end highlights all I’ve said above, the players went out there and did the business for their team mates and leaders of the dressing room. With Huddersfield next at home, albeit with a long journey home after that win to get over, I’d back us to do the business once more on Saturday.

I’m sure Rowett won’t be disappointed with his sides efforts whilst working from home in the last two…

Despite adversity, Millwall’s momentum is increasing…

Sixteen Unbeaten

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Millwall are now 16(SIXTEEN) games unbeaten after running out 2-0 winners at The Macron Stadium, defeating struggling Bolton Wanderers with ease. In a game where The Lions were in control for the majority of the tie, goals arrived through target-man Tom Elliott and loan signing Ben Marshall.

With Marshall also laying on the assist for Elliott’s goal; an in swinging cross into the box from deep. It was a man of the match performance from the wide man who provided the quality in a match begging for a touch of class. Zapped of confidence the home side had the early possession, but on the break through the likes of Lee Gregory and Jed Wallace we were a constant threat.

The best of the two goals was Marshall’s second half strike. Mahlon Romeo of all players the architect, running almost 80 yards before squaring to Marshall who’s finish left Alnwick in goal no chance and put the game firmly to bed.

Since arriving on loan from Wolves, Marshall has now contributed three goals and five assists in 12 appearances for the club. With form in the last five games picking up immensely, I sure hope we have some sort of a clause in place with a figure already agreed should we choose to sign the player. Every good performance always adds a few quid to a loan players price tag…

The loanee is yet to be on the loosing side for Millwall this season, whilst bringing immense quality Marshall has made the position on the left side his own. Despite not being a natural left midfielder on arrival and considered the modern day number 10 type of player, credit deservedly is due to Harris and the recruitment team for identifying Marshall as a valid option for our side.

Keeping the returning Aiden O’Brien out of the starting XI is not an easy task. However Marshall has provided a creative outlet we desperately required on the left flank. At times over relying on the direct running Jed Wallace, we now have constant threats on both side of the pitch. Whilst O’Brien is a goal poacher, you often find O’Brien lurking at the back post and providing the final touch, instead Marshall is turning up at the back stick but also laying on a load of chances for our forwards to finish.

For the second time in 12 games manager Neil Harris opted to make one change to the side, with Elliott replacing Steve Morison in the starting XI much like our trip to Hull a month ago. Grabbing a goal for himself Elliott proved what he has to offer at the club, a handful in the opposition box the forward was also impressive in defensive set pieces.

Whilst competing with Morison for his place in the team means chances come at a premium, to have the luxury of Elliott as a squad option and have him make an impact and grab a goal will please Harris. Others who don’t get a look in at the moment include the likes of Conor McLaughlin, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Shane Ferguson, Ben Thompson and even the experienced Jason Shackell.

With competition for places brings that extra percentage of performance from players and it is clearly a massive contributing factor to our unbeaten run. We now find ourselves… We now find ourselves… Who am I hiding my excitement from… WE’RE IN THE PLAY-OFF PLACES WITH FOUR GAMES TO PLAY! I truly cannot believe the performances we are being provided with since the turn of the year, the players are rewarding the fans and the fans are playing their part in their support to.

Premier League football is only a dream I can’t even begin to let myself realise just yet, however to be this close with four games left in the season is an absolute credit to the work of Neil Harris and co. Not only is he a club legend, but we now have a squad in front of us on a weekly basis that understand what it means to represent the club and what their fans stand for. On a near zero budget too, competing with clubs who can splash cash for fun.

Super Neil.

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Sixteen Unbeaten

Enjoy The Run-In… We Have Nothing To Lose

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Five to play and the climax of The Championship is near, with Millwall sitting comfortably in 7th with one point separating us and the Play-Off places for Premier League football. In a season where the priority was survival and getting to 50 points as soon as possible, even the ambitious fans amongst us wouldn’t have dreamt of the run we currently are on with the club now chasing down the top six in the division.

Saturday saw The Lions dispose of early season pace runners Bristol City in front of another capacity crowd at The Den. With the atmosphere probably the greatest of the season so far, the players turned up once more with Jed Wallace and Steve Morison grabbing a goal each as we ran out 2-0 winners. Wallace in-particular starring throughout with his direct running causing the Bristol City defence numerous problems, the winger provided a goal of the season candidate too with his curling effort from the edge of the box leaving Frank Fielding in goal no chance.

In the first of five “six-pointer” ties where we take on the majority of teams in and around us chasing the top six, Neil Harris couldn’t hide his praise for the team. Limiting Bristol City to no shots within our 18 yard box, Jordan Archer in goal had nothing to do in a game where the out of form visitors failed to register a single shot on target. It’s a true credit to how far the team has come since the turn of the year, unbeaten in 15 league games (yes, FIFTEEN!) managing to win 10, aside from Fulham we are the form team in the division.

The phrase “overachieving” is over-used when a club such as ours does well in any competition. However, considering the financial power a lot of the clubs in and around us have in The Championship, plus sides such as Sunderland on the verge of double relegation to the third tier, Neil Harris and co. deserve immense amount of credit for the job done since his appointment three years ago now. The strategy is clear, the style of play suits the club, and more importantly the whole fan base is behind every decision the club makes.

Midway through the second half on Saturday, the whole ground was in unison whilst blurting out The Super Neil Harris chant. Despite already being considered a club legend for his efforts as a player, I don’t think even Neil Harris would’ve dreamt of the position we currently find ourselves in at the moment. With five to play fate is firmly in our own hands, easier said than done but win our last five and no matter how other teams get on we land up in the end of season shootout for promotion.

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Bolton, Sheffield United, Fulham, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa make up our last five fixtures. Last June on fixture release day I had Aston Villa at home on the last day of the season down as a game where both teams would need the win for differing reasons, with the likelihood we’d be languishing at the bottom needing a win for survival. Now we have these big teams coming up in and around us I couldn’t think of a better set of fixtures to have.

Bolton tomorrow night could prove to be the toughest test of the lot. Having lost their last three and Barnsley beneath them winning on Saturday with a game extra to play, Bolton have almost been clawed back into the relegation dog fight. Pressure will be on Millwall to turn up and win the tie and we go in as the favourites. Having said that, based on recent form being the favourite is something we’ve been for the majority of recent games. When we come up against the likes of Fulham and Aston Villa, teams with a huge financial backing compared to ourselves the pressure is lifted as we take on our familiar underdog tag we thrive on.

I guess now we’re in the position we find ourselves in, the team are full of confidence and fully enjoying their football. Who knows, we might actually end up in the top six and have another day at Wembley… Regardless of the outcome of the remaining five games, what I can say for certain, it has been one of the best seasons following the club.

Enjoy the run-in… We have nothing to lose.

 

Enjoy The Run-In… We Have Nothing To Lose

Crucial Win Before The Christmas Run-In…

 

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FINALLY, the weekend saw The Lions register a crucial win at home to high flying Sheffield United. Running out 3-1 winners, the timing couldn’t have been better with the Christmas run-in well underway.

Three goals from open play and Lee Gregory getting his first goal in nine games, taking the opening goal superbly in a chance you might not have backed him to finish in recent games. I don’t think Neil Harris would’ve struggled to sleep on Saturday night, a few pints were certainly enjoyed after the game from me anyway!

In a typical Millwall performance, the team dug-in when under pressure from the visitors who dominated the ball as expected. Despite keeping hold of the ball for long periods towards the end of the first half and early stages of the second, I couldn’t recall an occasion where Leon Clarke up front had an opportunity to test Jordan Archer in goal.

Despite the visitors failing to win in their last couple of games, going into the game as mentioned in our last post, we expected a difficult game. However, in games like this at The Den I’d much rather Sheffield United coming to town instead of Shrewsbury Town with a couple hundred fans in The North Stand.

Guaranteed a good away following from the visitors and more home fans likely to be in attendance, the atmosphere was certainly more lively when compared to Hull City on a Tuesday night. I’m sure the players raised their own game for it too, and it was evident from the start.

The opening stages of the game was very much all Millwall, and the breakthrough came on 14 minutes. Lee Gregory converting our breakaway which had started on the right flank with the returning Jed Wallace running at the opposition defence. Wallace has been a missing piece in the jigsaw in recent weeks, with the lack of a player willing to take on the opposition at pace and cause havoc.

Wallace had probably gone off the boil in the games before his suspension, however on the evidence of Saturday’s performance the break clearly done him the world of good. To finish off the move Steve Morison had picked out Gregory, who made no mistake from 10 yards out.

Having had the early stages of the game under control, Sheffield United slowly came back into the game and deserved to level before half time. David Brooks providing what has to go down as a beautiful finish, cushioning his strike into the opposite side of the goal from the edge of the six-yard box. Saturday’s performance certainly flagged up to me why Premier League clubs might be taking a look at the youngster.

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The game could’ve honestly gone either way at half time, and thankfully after riding another wave of pressure early in the second half, we got the opportunity to go ahead again and took the opportunity. Mahlon Romeo grabbing himself his first goal in The Championship in his first start in the division too, sounds similar to a debut of Romeo’s a couple years back at Walsall, no?

With Conor McLaughlin suspended Saturday was Romeo’s first opportunity to put some pressure under the Northern Irish international, and after his performance Saturday I’d be surprised if Harris decides to drop him for Villa away on Saturday. Overlapping as usual down the right hand side, Romeo found himself the furthest forward after Gregory’s sliding tackle on the Sheffield United central defender. With Gregory picking out Romeo, the full back did the rest converting his shot to the far corner past Jamaal Blackman in goal.

Jake Cooper put the game to bed late on with a header at the far post, with Millwall running out 3-1 winners. The second half was on a knifes edge, but what edged it more was the players desire to get the win.

The midfield pairing of George Saville and Ryan Tunnicliffe has coincided with our form taking a dip after Shaun Williams’ injury. However I felt on Saturday the pair got to grips with the Sheffield United three man midfield and contributed massively to our win. With Williams due to return its likely to see Tunnicliffe make way, however I personally felt Saturday was his best performance in a Millwall shirt so far.

Lots and lots of positives, as you’d expect after a win like that! Let’s hope it continues on Saturday away at Villa Park.

Crucial Win Before The Christmas Run-In…

Millwall Vs Stevenage – Things We Learnt

Millwall Vs Stevenage - Tom Elliott first goal

Last night we kicked off our campaign in The Carabao Cup, as we played hosts to League Two side Stevenage in the first round. With nine changes from the side that started on Friday away to Forest, Neil Harris will be pleased to still get through as we ran out 2-0 winners. Two goals arriving in the second half, both ending in a Tom Elliott header.

Compared to last weekend’s game, last night certainly wasn’t one for those who believe in a passing style of football, as both sides struggled to string together passes early on. In fact, it was probably the visitors who shaded the first half, with Tom King in goal called upon more than his counterpart in goal up the other end.

Thankfully, the performance improved in the second half and thanks to neat build up play to both goals; owing to Fred Onyedinma and Shane Ferguson. Our new target man signing was on hand to convert both opportunities on a great full debut for Elliott.

Unfortunately, last night’s game looks to have come at a cost to Jake Cooper and Lee Gregory, with both hobbling off the pitch and doubtful for Saturdays game at home to Bolton.

Nonetheless, here are a few things we learnt from yesterday’s cup tie…

Tom Elliott is a damn handful for any defender

I mean, you’d expect the above to apply when you’re 6”6 in height and built like a fridge freezer, Tom Elliott’s competitive start will certainly have pleased Neil Harris last night at full time. Throwing himself into absolutely everything, I don’t think the Stevenage central defenders won a single duel when challenged by the target man.

Not only did Elliott prove to be a handful, what was most important was his contributions to the scoresheet, and ultimately deciding the fate of the match on his own. With both crosses into the box in the build up to the goals, you had no doubt Elliott would be on the end of it, and ultimately he was able to convert both too.

With Gregory hobbling off towards the end of the match too, Elliott has certainly played himself into contention for a start on Saturday against Bolton.

Tom King still pushing the number one

With nine changes we also had a change in goal with Tom King earning a first start of the season. Earning a clean sheet it was an all-round solid performance from our number two, and with Harris a couple weeks back citing the option of bringing another keeper in, King has certainly put to bed any potential doubts in the managers head.

Albeit a largely untested game for King, he managed to pull off a couple of saves during crucial moments of the tie, especially in the first half to keep the scores level. With Jordan Archer at blame by some for the Forest goal last week, King provided a timely reminder of his ability to step in and play a part should the number one’s form drop off.

Millwall Vs Stevenage - Ben Thompson

Other fringe players likely to remain fringe players

 Again, nine changes allowed the opportunity for players who didn’t start last Friday to play and a stake a claim. Whilst King, Elliott and Fred impressed others further down the pecking order weren’t so impressive especially during a sloppy opening half.

I don’t think I’ve seen Ben Thompson play as bad a game as he did yesterday, mistiming a few tackles and also giving the ball away too easily when attempting a simple enough pass. Perhaps Thompson is one of those players who needs a run of games to build form, however with the competition for places especially in the middle of the park you expect individuals on the fringes to impress.

Elsewhere the likes of Tony Craig, Mahlon Romeo and David Worrall were also distinctly average. Maybe average performances is okay if you’re in the first XI, but again when offered the chance to play your way into a team that lost the game before, you’d expect to see a little more on offer.

Lack of creativity with key players not featuring

 The above neatly brings me onto a further point, with the likes of Jed Wallace, Shaun Williams and Steve Morison in reserve on the bench, the onus was on others to bring the creativity.

Following on from our last match where we created un-told amount of chances and were unfortunate to not score 4 or 5 – even though it could’ve been more – last night was flat creatively. I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we rely heavily on the performances of Morison and Wallace to carve out chances, with both out along with our playmaker in the middle, no one was able to step up and create.

Thankfully, Fred brought the flair as the game went on, and was desperately unlucky not to score what would’ve been a superb goal at the death, but I’m sure these doubts will be in the head of Harris, especially if injuries occur later on in the campaign.

Enough worrying, we scored our first goals of the season, and are in the hat for the second round of The League Cup, now let’s get off the mark in the league this coming weekend.

 

Millwall Vs Stevenage – Things We Learnt

Forest Vs Millwall – How Did We Not Win?!

Forest Millwall team huddle

Game one of the season has already been and gone, ultimately ending in defeat away to Nottingham Forest on Friday night. The old cliché applies to this defeat, with the score line far from telling the tale of the match.

With the anxious nerves pre game whilst traveling up to Nottingham, the performance from the team was superb. Bullying a less physical home side, we turned up and I felt played Forest off the park. Creating chances galore, I really don’t know how we didn’t take something away from the game on Friday night.

First half saw Morison hit the cross bar from a set piece, O’Brien missing a header he converted similarly the week previous against Granada. Whilst Gregory also had two chances in the first half you’d back him to usually put away, and as is the case in this division, after failing to put the latest chance away Forest then went up the other end of the pitch and convert their only chance of the first half.

If there was ever an example of what we can expect this season, that was a prime case. Failing to convert a bunch of chances, Forest then went up the other end with new signing Barrie McKay converting from long range. The goal itself was a soft one to give away too, and I’m sure Jordan Archer would’ve felt he could’ve done better with his effort to get across the goal.

Second half was much more of the same, with Gregory having another effort from close range fly over the bar, Jed Wallace also missed an opportunity when put through one-on-one with the Forest goalkeeper. I’m sure you’re getting the theme of how the match played out by now…

The most controversial moment of the match was midway through the second half, with Millwall chasing a goal to get back into the game. On 70 minutes Steve Morison converted a cross from Jed Wallace at the far post, only for the referee to disallow the effort for a foul on the keeper by Gregory.

I don’t think I could display more how disappointing it was to watch on from the stands, but its important to take a look a the positives from a match we dominated and deserved to win comfortably. Any questions we had on whether combinations of players could step up were certainly answered.

Best performance of the night from a Millwall point of view was that of George Saville. In his third debut for the club after arriving from Wolves, Saville was a standout on the pitch, dominant on the ball, Saville also displayed the physical qualities he will bring to the midfield, winning every 50 50 challenge with his Forest counterpart. Alongside Williams it really was great viewing to watch from the stands.

Forest Millwall - Morison Goal Ruled Out

Despite failing to convert chances put their way, a mention should also go to the tried and tested Gregory and Morison combination. Both never stopped running on the night, and along with Jed Wallace offered a real presence when pressing the Forest defenders. A couple of times we managed to win the ball back ended in a clear goal scoring opportunity, and going forward all three have demonstrated their importance to the side.

Elsewhere across the park, the back four of Meredith, Cooper, Hutchinson and McLaughlin coped well throughout. The shape was consistent of the back four, and each had moments of individual brilliance to prevent Forest from having an effort on goal.

A big talking point before kick-off was the decision to go with Cooper and Hutchinson, leaving the ever present Byron Webster out of the side. A big call from Neil Harris at the time, however with Cooper in the side offering the balance being naturally left sided, the back four did look a lot more settled as a whole.

It’s weird to feel so hard done by after suffering defeat, however if we play like we did on Friday night next week at home to Bolton, I have now doubts we will be able to pick up our first win of the season.

Forest Vs Millwall – How Did We Not Win?!

Millwall Vs Granada – Player Ratings

Millwall Granada Hutchinson

Last weekend concluded The Lions’ pre-season campaign, ending with our only win whilst running out 3-0 winners over Spanish side Granada. The ideal end to pre-season, Saturday was the first indication of what sort of side to expect later this week away to Nottingham Forest.

Taking the lead midway through the first half thanks to a Jed Wallace free kick, the intensity levels carried through in the second half with two further goals from midfielder Shaun Williams and the impressive Aiden O’Brien. We probably could’ve ended with more goals, with new signing Tom Elliot testing the Granada keeper on a couple of occasions.

What stood out most from the side was the obvious intent of keeping the ball a little more, when facing off against a team like Granada it’s expected to retain shape and defend without the ball. However, I felt on Saturday with new signings McLaughlin and Meredith in the side we looked more assured on the ball when in possession than last season.

Overall, I’m sure Neil Harris would’ve enjoyed that 90 minutes on Saturday, performances across the park were consistent. Here’s a comment on each players impact on the tie:

Starting XI

XI Vs Granada1

Jordan Archer 6/10 – To settle any questions from you reading, a 6/10 marks an expected performance from a player in my view. In the case of Jordan Archer, I felt it was a solid display from the goalkeeper, assured when having the ball at feet, Archer looked in control of a new and settled back four, also making the occasional long range save. He’ll have more to contend with on Friday I’m sure, but as a benchmark it was a good days work for the number one.

Conor McLaughlin 6/10 – Another to be expected performance for McLauglin on his Den debut, with Wallace in front there’s less of an expectance for the full back to kick on. Having said that, I felt his composure on the ball was very evident, with no sign of taking it easy against the opposition winger. Certainly expecting the new signing to retain his place on the side this week.

Byron Webster 6/10 – Having only featured for 45 minutes with Cooper coming in at half time, there wasn’t much to do for Webster in the first half. Assured as ever, it will be interesting viewing how Webster copes in The Championship this season.

Shaun Hutchinson 7/10 – 90 minutes under his belt, Hutchinson had a solid game in the heart of defence. Lining up on the left side in the first half with Webster, Hutchinson was moved over to the right when Cooper was introduced, showing his adaptability and comfort at playing on either side.

James Meredith 7/10 – Completing the back four was another new signing James Meredith. Tasked with providing the width for the left flank, the full back coped well showing his ability to get up and down the field. Providing a little more composure on the ball, it was a solid Den debut for the full back.

Jed Wallace 9/10 – Star player on the day, man of the match Jed Wallace. Involved with all three goals, Wallace was a constant threat on the right side of midfield. Performances like this almost come to be expected from Wallace, and if we can get that sort of consistency on a weekly basis we already have a standout candidate for player of the season. With O’Brien on song on the other flank, it allowed Wallace to have the space required to star.

Shaun Williams 8/10 – Bossed the midfield alongside Saville and took his goal excellently, a partnership I feel will be frequently used this season with both already having an understanding of each other’s play. Williams seemed to enjoy having the option to kick on further forward, and was in full demonstration mode of his already known passing range.

George Saville 7/10 – Offering the added quality in the middle, Saville on his return to The Den reminded fans present on exactly what he brings to the side. The added know how in games to win free kicks, Saville also was on hand to show his qualities in a tackle and ability to win the ball from the opposition midfield.

Aiden O’Brien 8/10 – Another standout throughout his time on the field, tracking back in defence to effect, O’Brien’s main influence was in attack. Drifting in from the left onto his right foot, we got the usual flair in the attacking areas but with an added end product, whether a telling pass or an effort on goal himself. As I mentioned in my preview, with O’Brien we have the added goal threat, and whilst Gregory and Morison were marked out of the game and failing to find the net, O’Brien was able to pop-up at the back post from a Wallace cross to convert a simple tap-in.

Lee Gregory 6/10 – Frustrating day for Gregory, with no clear opportunities finding his way to get off the mark. We know of his quality so it would only be a matter of time before he gets the goal, and Friday night would be the perfect opportunity for him to put that right.

Steve Morison 7/10 – Against Spanish opposition, Morison was able to win the crucial flick-on’s more often than not, and able to provide the outlet should we decide to play long. Again, not many chances were on offer for Morison, but much like Lee Gregory you’d have faith in Morison putting on the required performance when lining up on Friday away to Nottingham Forest.

SUBS

Cooper – 6/10

Ferguson – 6/10

Elliott – 6/10

Thompson – 6/10

Onyedinma – 6/10

Craig – N/A

Worrall – N/A

Butcher – N/A

 

Millwall Vs Granada – Player Ratings

Barnet Vs Millwall – Things We Learnt

Barnet Millwall Lee Gregory

The weekend saw the arrival of our second game of pre-season, as we travelled to The Hive, Barnet. Having been away for a week in Portugal on the now annual pre-season trip, it was the first chance for the senior players to get close to a full match under their belt.

Before the match Harris revealed he would be splitting the squads for the two games against Barnet and Stevenage, in an attempt to maximise minutes per game for all senior players. The starting XI was complete with senior players and the bench had only Under 23 squad members.

The game itself played out to a disappointing 1-0 defeat. Goal scorer for Barnet through always the handful Jon Akinde. I know, it is only pre-season and results are not a priority at this stage as I always say myself. However, looking on whilst at the game, the performance was equally as bad, with Barnet the better side for the majority of the match.

With the XI we had out there, we should’ve been able to create an abundance of chances and offer our forwards the chance to get off the mark in a game. Looking back now, you’d struggle to pick out those moments where we carved apart our League Two opposition.

XI vs Barnet

Harris himself after the game was quick to mention his disappointment in the performance, and also mentioning a couple of the players would be lucky to get near the starting XI when we travel to Nottingham in less than two weeks’ time.

Anyway, having witnessed the 90 minutes at the ground, here are five points that crossed my mind at full time:

McLaughlin and Meredith look at home

Albeit the negative start to this post, let’s start on a positive point from the game. Both full backs Conor McLaughlin and James Meredith started the match Saturday with the latter completing the full game; McLaughlin was replaced with 10 minutes remaining for youngster James Brown.

Completing the back four with Byron Webster and Shaun Hutchinson, there was a sense of having a defensively sound back four. With both full backs also offering their qualities going forward in the wide areas, their ability to get up and down the flanks was very evident.

Left side taking shape

Keeping with the wide areas on the pitch, the combination on the left hand side with Shane Ferguson and Meredith was also impressive. Both offer the natural balance to the team, however what stood out most was their understanding of each other’s game. If Meredith was to kick on into the final third, Ferguson offered the cover to the full back, and we know Ferguson is more than capable of covering in defence.

The build-up play between the two also stood out, dragging Barnet players with them out of position and creating space for each other. The usual defensive choice for Harris is to play Ferguson instead of Aiden O’Brien, and with a step up in opposition this season, it would not be a surprise for Ferguson to get the nod in more games this time around.

Barnet Millwall Calum Butcher

Lack of midfield presence

Starting with our tried and tested 4-4-2 formation, Saturday we had Calum Butcher and Shaun Williams in the middle of the park. I have never been one to be over critical of players like Butcher, who on paper are the backup options available to Harris in our squad. However Saturday was glaringly obvious the absence of a typical box-to-box midfielder such as Ben Thompson.

With Williams playing the role of the midfield playmaker, the job of the player next to Williams is to bring the physicality and win your teams 50-50 tackles, or bring the energy and provide something of a nuisance to the opposing central players. Against Barnet, I felt Butcher didn’t provide either, with the Barnet midfield offered too much time on the ball, and able pick out players in more advanced positions.

Perhaps a lot to do with Butcher’s performance was lack of match time, often miss timing a tackle and when having the ball at feet, Butcher was failing to pick out a pass to set the attackers on their way further up the field. Perhaps I’m being over critical, however the absence of a Ben Thompson was clear viewing.

Lack of creativity

With Jed Wallace, Aiden O’Brien and Fred Onyedinma giving the game off and likely to feature tomorrow at Stevenage, an opportunity was presented to players like David Worrall to stake their claim for a place in the first XI. Having lost his place thanks to the arrival of Wallace, it looked like an opportunity Harris wanted to give to the wide man with both Morison and Gregory starting up top.

However as I mentioned in the intro to the post, the game played out with hardly any chances created, especially down the right flank. It opened my eyes to how much I think we rely on Jed Wallace, due to Wallace’s pace and directness on the ball, he brings a constant threat in the wide areas. Players Gregory know where the ball is likely to end up with Wallace playing, beating his man and producing a cross that seems always causes havoc in the opposition area.

Worrall provides a steady back-up to the team, but it won’t be a shock to any if he doesn’t feature on the first game of the season. Up next in pre-season, a trip to Stevenage…

Barnet Vs Millwall – Things We Learnt