A 1-0 defeat at Wigan really wasn’t worth any investment of emotion about the result or performance. It’s well known that we’re crap now and it’s well known that we’re waiting for next season to start, save the anger for next season.
Heading into this pre-pre-season friendly against Millwall, who actually have something to play for, I’m going to avoid treading over old ground too much. We have no confidence and no sense of intent to our play, we’ll probably look okay until we actually need to score a goal and then we’ll go to pieces.
Last Time We Met
Like last week, this is a game against a side we beat in the gloriously promising first few games of the season. Despite beating Wigan the week before, there were no great expectations of this team with Millwall looking like a stern, physical test. We looked to be in for a reminder of just how nascent we were as a team when Lee Gregory won a dodgy-looking penalty, which Chris Stokes was fairly adamant was a dive.
The penalty proved to be the game’s turning point, Lee Burge saved it and barely a minute later Adam Armstrong lobbed the Millwall keeper from 35 yards out to hand us the lead. James Maddison and Jim O’Brien played a quick one-two before Ruben Lameiras was picked out in space and he somehow found space at the near-post to slot home. Lameiras linked up with Armstrong who emphatically tucked away a third goal before half-time.
A controlled second-half performance where all we had to do was wait for opportunities on the counter to seal the win eventually produced a fourth goal when Jim O’Brien played a one-two with Marcus Tudgay with ten minutes to go.
The dynamism and free movement of the team on that day is something that seems such a far cry from now. Would it have been possible to keep up that level of performance throughout the season? Possibly not, but just four members of the team that day are likely to line up for the return fixture, the amount of often needless disruption to the starting line-up has made it much tougher to sustain that kind of performance throughout the season.
How Are They Doing?
Millwall have done that thing where you get better as the season progresses. An underwhelming first half of the campaign created the impression that this was set to be a transitional season as Millwall adjusted to life in League One. They had been frustratingly inconsistent with manager Neil Harris who had been attempting to get Millwall back to their traditional values of effective, physical, direct football whilst also bringing through players from the academy.
Harris though stuck to his beliefs, changing very little aside from bringing in one or two loan players to add quality to the side and shipping out fringe players. That courage in his convictions has come to fruition over the second half of the season with Millwall rising comfortably into the top six and the opportunity to get back into the Championship at the first time of asking.
Millwall’s squad is a good blend of experience and youth playing with a clear idea of what they want to achieve on the pitch. It’s a simple formula, a 4-4-2 with well-established partnerships all over the pitch. They attack with purpose and defend resolutely, they don’t over-elaborate, they just relentlessly ask questions of the opposition both with the ball and physically.
Up front they have Lee Gregory, who like the rest of the team has improved as the season has progressed, on 18 league goals for the season. The former Halifax striker is in his second season as a professional, he’s a goal poacher but also a physical presence around the box. His partner up front will be Steve Morison who is a more experienced player of a similar ilk and is on 13 goals for the season.
With the giant Mark Beevers and Byron Webster in central defence, Millwall are likely to be imposing at both ends of the pitch. The Lions also have one of the division’s best goalkeepers in Jordan Archer who has stepped up to first-choice status this season with a series of impressive shot-stopping performances. If Millwall are possibly susceptible to pace in behind, Archer will make it difficult to actually score.
An industrious and uncomplicated midfield possesses at least two players good enough to make an impression at the level above. Winger Chris Taylor is on loan from Blackburn and approaches the role in stereotypical manner, quick, capable of beating his full-back with skill and with good delivery. Shaun Williams in the centre is a rare ball-player in this Millwall team, his performances give the side an element of control in midfield and he also possesses a powerful long-range shot and set-piece delivery.
As you can gather, Millwall are a pretty formidable side, are in good form and will be looking to avenge a humiliating defeat earlier in the season. This seems unlikely to be the sort of afternoon where we’ll be able to play ourselves back into form, Millwall are going to be playing with a level of intensity that I just don’t think we’re currently capable of producing.
With the situation around Millwall being refused a larger away allocation and the potential for trouble that might bring, it’s fair to say that I’m not looking forward to this game at all. I’m predicting a heavy 4-0 defeat.