Dartford vs Millwall – Five Things We Learnt


Dartford Vs Millwall - Teams walk out

Saturday saw the opening of Millwall’s pre-season campaign with our annual trip to Princes Park, Dartford FC. Now in the Conference South, it was a good opportunity for the first team squad to make their first appearances of the summer, with all senior players each playing 45 minutes.

First Half XI: Tom King; James Brown, Sid Nelson, Shaun Hutchinson, James Meredith; David Worrall, Calum Butcher, George Saville, Aiden O’Brien; Steve Morison, Fred Onyedinma.

Second Half XI: Jordan Archer; Mahlon Romeo, Byron Webster, Paul Rooney(Christian Mbulu on 80 mins), Tony Craig; Jed Wallace, Shaun Williams, Ben Thompson, Kris Twardek; Tom Elliott, Lee Gregory.

There were debuts for Tom Elliott and James Meredith, with familiar faces also returning with George Saville and Jed Wallace also featuring. Connor McLaughlin who joined last week didn’t feature along with fellow International Shane Ferguson; both played a part in Northern Ireland’s games at the start of June.

As mentioned in my preview of the game last week, the result was the least important variable as the match played out to a 1-1 draw, with the hosts 1-up before the break. The less said of their opener the better, with deputy keeper Tom King making a mess of a back pass and the closing down Dartford forward was on hand to tap home.

The second half side had a bit more familiarity and it showed with abundance of chances created. Fortunately, we spared our own blushes and managed to get a goal back thanks to Ben Thompson’s effort on his weaker foot, placing his strike into the bottom corner from just outside the box.

So with the first game of pre-season out of the way, here’s five talking points from the weekend’s game:

Fred Onyedinma stays put in SE16

Team news at 12pm brought a pleasant surprise as Fred Onyedinma lined up next to Steve Morison in attack. Having dominated the end of last season and all of the close season, we finally received positive news of Fred committing to the club and agreeing terms for a new deal.

The news will spit opinions however I couldn’t be happier, still only 20 years of age it will be interesting to see what sort of role Neil Harris has planned for Fred this season. Lining up next to Morison at the weekend with Worrall on the right, I believe we will be seeing a lot more of Fred further up the field this season.

4-4-2 remains for now

Everyone enjoys this one online, so let’s talk tactics. Both the first half and second half XI’s were presented in a 4-4-2 formation. Again, the result or performance wasn’t essential to Harris at the weekend but I feel we can read into this as expecting more of the same next season.

The two XI’s had a bit of contrast with Fred and O’Brien roaming more in the first half up top, compared to the second XI with both Elliott and Gregory providing a more rigid 4-4-2 with both spear heading the attack.

As always a lot will depend on the opposition with what Harris will choose, but with the success we got from 4-4-2 last season I don’t think many will be too bothered if we line up with a 4-4-2 away to Forest first game of the season.

Tom Elliott wins everything

 I briefly mentioned Elliott above, however it was very apparent his dominance in the air on Saturday. Albeit against lower league opposition, the forward stood out in his first appearance in a Millwall shirt. Lack of match sharpness was apparent with the ball given away on more than one occasion, but his height advantage certainly stood out.

Partnerships take time to build, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Gregory might not have been on the end of Elliott’s flick-on’s. Despite Morison providing the toughest competition for the new forward, the potential of Elliott and Gregory up front this season is an exciting option.

George Saville - Dartford Millwall

Saville and Wallace ooze class

I know it was only a pre-season tie away to a Conference South side, but the performances of Jed Wallace and George Saville were certainly the standouts of the 23 featured players. It weren’t even the showcase of their ability, more so the know how and game management from both, Championship know how comes to mind.

Saville whilst putting himself about on the pitch showed a glimpse of what to expect this season, with also the ability to ‘buy’ free kicks, putting himself between the ball and almost waiting for the challenge. It’s simple stuff, but there is a method to it and not every player can convincingly play like that.

Wallace on the other hand was a constant threat on the right, leaving the Dartford left back in all sort of knots, delivery might not have been as consistent, but the step up in ability compared to Worrall is clear to see.

 Calum Butcher’s chances this season

Finally, my last talking point is midfielder Calum Butcher. With Saville arriving in the window I struggle to see Butcher’s place in the squad moving forward this season. With Saville the likely competitor to Ben Thompson, Butchers role in the side is currently doubtful.

Playing next to Saville on Saturday, it was hard to narrow down what Butcher’s role was in the first half, he can’t play the Shaun Williams play maker role as was demonstrated with misplaced pass after another. Maybe I’m being harsh?

Butcher was competing with Thompson for a place in the side last season, and now probably finds himself fourth choice of the current four we have. With Ryan Leonard a long term target for the club also, it wouldn’t surprise me if Butcher would be next out of the door.

Dartford vs Millwall – Five Things We Learnt

Football Is Back! – Dartford Vs Millwall Preview

Pre-season 2017 squad image

Whether its Dartford away or the always requested pre-season tour, tomorrow we finally have our Saturday’s back with a trip to Princes Park, Dartford. An ever present on the schedule in recent years, Saturday will be the first opportunity to see our squad for the 2017/2018 CHAMPIONSHIP campaign.

Yes, we are finally back where we belong in the second tier of English football, with trips to Nottingham and Bristol only a month away. It’s a far cry to those of Shrewsbury and Port Vale on Tuesday nights which we were treated to last season. It’s safe to say I cannot wait for every single away day next season, and sure I’m not the only one.

The curtain opener of pre-season is always highly anticipated with the opportunity to see how we may attack the start of the season. New signings making their first appearance, younger players from our development team offered the chance to impress, it offers the opportunity for fans to view what manager Neil Harris is looking for this season.

Ultimately, the key to any pre-season is ensuring players don’t get injured, and get the minutes required to ready themselves for the opening day of the league season. Whilst not a priority to win the games, I’m sure Harris will be keen for each player to find their feet early and build on each of their individual performances from the first minute of the first game.

Tomorrow has already been confirmed that two XI’s will each get 45 minutes, with every senior player likely to feature. With a trip to Portugal looming next week for the now annual training camp, avoiding injuries is the only necessity from Saturday’s game.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing our new signings for the first time in a Millwall shirt. We obviously know already about George Saville and Jed Wallace at this club, however the opportunity to see James Meredith, Tom Elliott and Connor McLaughlin is equally exciting.

George Saville and Jed Wallace Signing Image

Each of the three new arrivals were standouts in their sides last season, with all three making enough of an impression when lining up against us last year, albeit in League One. Excitement is always guaranteed when new players join in the close season – I’m truly the worst of anyone when it comes to positivity –and this summer is no different.

Elliott the competition and alternative to Steve Morison, with Harry Smith likely to move out on loan you’d think. McLaughlin an international who featured in the Euros last summer for Northern Ireland. Whilst Meredith the full back at Bradford who is your modern day option and likely to dislodge Tony Craig from the side. Add into the equation Wallace, Saville and the soon to be return of Jake Cooper, surely we’re allowed to be a little excited, right?

Every signing fits the profile our recruitment team looks for, aged early-mid 20’s and determined to prove their worth in The Championship, with most having played in the division at a younger age and unable to stamp their mark completely. The cynical part of fans will question the signing of “average players”, however in our situation this is the only realistic and progressive option we should be pursuing as a club.

Priority is maintaining our league status this season, and anything else on top will be a bonus. Should we achieve our goals this season, you can guarantee each of this summer’s new arrivals would’ve had a key part to play in achieving that outcome, and will only improve as a result.

Back to tomorrow’s game, with good weather likely, hopefully we will see plenty of goals, good performances and importantly no injuries…

Football Is Back! – Dartford Vs Millwall Preview