Rolling the dice could be the masterstroke we need…

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Ahead of what promises to be a summer and pre-season of mass turnover in SE16, the underlying feeling when leaving the 2018/2019 last month was a sense of relief. Despite finishing under the so called magic target of 50 points, we managed at the expense of three worse teams survive in The Championship.

For the first time since probably handing Neil Harris the job four summers ago, we again have differing views as a fanbase as to whether we have the right man in charge to take the club forward. No one doubts or plays down the achievement’s of Harris and co, however would the club perhaps benefit from a change of direction?

We currently have 16 contracted senior players at the club; including recent addition Alex Pearce who put pen to paper and extend his stay at The Den beyond his loan expiry date. This number is however slightly inflated, with both Fred Onyedinma and Tom Elliott offered out to clubs should anyone be interested. Not to mention the forgotten half a million pound man Jiri Skalak, who only made four starts the entire campaign just gone. Take away these three and you’re left with a squad of 13 players…

Mahlon Romeo, Shaun Hutchinson, Alex Pearce – Contract signed, Jake Cooper, Murray Wallace, James Meredith, Jed Wallace, Jiri Skalak, Shane Ferguson, Aiden O’Brien, Shaun Williams, Ryan Leonard, Ben Thompson, Tom Bradshaw, Tom Elliott and Fred Onyedinma are the only contracted senior players at the club.

Whilst alarm bells are ringing amongst supporters and rightly so with pre-season already only around the corner. I, perhaps somehow liken to the approach to rolling the dice. Taking risks that could backfire, however could also bring huge amounts of success. At this level you need a different approach to compete and this could hopefully bring that turn we need.

Some might call it delusion, but with key personnel such as Steve Morison and Lee Gregory departing the club, a duo who had huge success for us. The door is now open to either a newcomer or someone already within the club to ‘grab the shirt’ and make an impact. Agreed, no one has joined aside from Alex Pearce at the time of writing this, but Harris’ knowledge and success at the club the last four years earns the right to be afforded the benefit of doubt.

After overseeing a clear out in his first pre season in charge, Harris brought in Archer, Ferguson, Morison and Wallace the following season, three players who went on to contribute a huge amount the following seasons. We also got a rejuvenated Gregory working under Harris and enjoying his football, could there be a member of the current squad now who is out of favour but go on to prove us all wrong?

Supporters want to see a side who crosses the white line at The Den and give their all for the club who pay their wages. Given that we are now in the second division of the English pyramid, the expectancy is hyped and we not only want passion and commitment but also a bit of quality to come with it. Players already at the club such as Romeo, Cooper, Wallace and Thompson already offer the excitement factor, now we just need the club to back the manager at the helm and see what returns he gives us.

Rolling the dice could be the masterstroke we need… Whats the alternative to that?!

Rolling the dice could be the masterstroke we need…

Four Cup Finals To Play…

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Tomorrow Millwall travel to Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United as The Lions look to extend their unbeaten run to seventeen league games unbeaten. Backed by nearly 2,000 fans in a sold out allocation, it kicks off the first of four cup finals left to play against teams challenging for promotion this season.

Almost feels like the play-off’s before the actual play-offs, with the teams at the top scheduled to play against each other in the final four games of the season. I can’t remember a climax to the season we have coming up in years gone by. Oddly I feel to have these games are the best set of fixtures we could’ve had, these “big” clubs are expected to beat a club like Millwall, and the home fans on Saturday will be turning up expecting the home side get the win.

The Blades currently occupy 9th place in the league standings and sit three points behind us in what has to go down as a real six-pointer clash. If Millwall were to get the win on Saturday and put six points between us and Sheffield United, it would take a big swing in fortunes in the remaining fixtures for The Blades to catch us with the amount of games left. Pressure is firmly on the opposition going into the weekend.

Albeit we had a poor start to the season whilst The Blades ran off with the early season pace runners, to have both clubs challenging for promotion is real credit to both Neil Harris and Chris Wilder. Considering both sides were only just promoted to the division last summer, it demonstrates the reward of promotion and what momentum you can gather. In Wilder Sheffield United have a manager very similar to Harris, who can relate to the fans and is considered “one of their own” having played for the club in two different spells; again very similar to Harris at The Den.

Recent form has been a mixed bag for the home side, with nine points earned in their last six league games, but their win in midweek against fellow play-off chasers Middlesbrough reminds us of what their capable of on their day, especially whilst at home. Whilst we receive praise for our home form this season, Sheffield United have accumulated the same amount of points at home this season as The Lions.

The midweek clash saw Lee Evans grab two goals from midfield, with one strike from range highlighting the threat their midfielders possess. David Brooks is the hyped youngster who hit the ground running in the early stages of the season, but looks to have returned to form recently and will be another to look out for during Saturday’s clash. Also not forgetting experienced forward Leon Clarke, a football league striker I’m sure many of us all already know much about.

Enough of the home side, lets focus on ourselves ahead of another big clash. I anticipate Steve Morison coming back into the side in place of goalscorer Tom Elliott, which would probably be the only change Harris will elect to make. The team truly does pick itself, especially when on a run of sixteen without defeat.

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Destiny is firmly in our hands, win our remaining games and we wont be caught, of course easier said then done. However, looking at tomorrow the game is a must win for the home side, and I believe this will favour us as a side who looks to hit the opposition on the break. Whilst it’s not a must win for us just yet, it’s certainly considered to me a must not lose.

COME ON WALL

 

Four Cup Finals To Play…

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