A limp defeat to Fleetwood last week was the addendum to a miserable summer to be a Coventry City fan. With the hope that we can source significant improvements to the team extinguished with the closing of the summer transfer window, it’s hard not to feel like that performance last Saturday wasn’t a strong taste of what is to come for the rest of the season, or at least until the January transfer window or should Tony Mowbray leave the club.
Heading into a daunting away trip to Millwall, there’s are few tangible reasons to believe that we can get a result in what is our toughest game of the season thus far. The only real hope is that something has clicked on the training pitch now that Tony Mowbray has had time to rest players and focus on implementing a workable game-plan. However, it feels like we lack the quality at either end of the pitch to get result even if we successful tactical plan.
In terms of the team for this game, the main selection issues are in midfield and attack, aside from Sam Ricketts being restored to the starting XI ahead of Cian Harries. While the Chris McCann-Vladimir Gadzhev central midfield partnership hasn’t convinced thus far, McCann’s likely absence from this game will surely see Mowbray go for a central three of Bigirimana, Stevenson and Gadzhev, which is likely to struggle physically despite having a numerical advantage against Millwall.
The repercussion of playing a central three is that it neuters our blunt attacking threat further. Dan Agyei and Marcus Tudgay have performed the best out of our attacking options this season but I wonder whether the threat those two pose would suit Millwall’s slow but physical defence. The return of Jodi Jones to fitness is a big boost, it’s just whether we can offer him enough support to stop him being isolated against Millwall’s big, burly defenders.
Last Time We Met
After two defeats against us last season, I would imagine that Millwall will be keen for revenge considering the manner of both games. The first game against them last season was one of those golden afternoons that are all too rare in football, those days where everything goes your way. With Lee Burge saving an early penalty and Adam Armstrong opening the scoring with a lob from 35 yards, it was clear that the afternoon was ours from very early on. A pulsating performance of attacking verve and incision from messrs Armstrong, Lameiras and Maddison eviscerated Millwall in a glorious 4-0 victory for the Sky Blues.
The tables had been turned when Millwall visited the Ricoh back in April, Neil Harris’ side were comfortably in the play-offs while we were in the midst of a tail-spin that had taken us from the top of the table to the middle of it. When Millwall scored from a corner after typically negligent set-piece defending from the Sky Blues, there looked to be only one winner. That was before Millwall’s Shaun Williams needlessly lashed out at Ruben Lameiras in an off-the-ball incident and we managed to grind a resolute Millwall side down with a display of controlled football that resulted in a 2-1 win thanks to a John Fleck stunner and Marcus Tudgay scoring when set through one-on-one.
How Are They Doing?
Millwall were last season’s losing play-off finalists and as such, have been expected by many to be one of the stronger teams in the division this season. Thus far, it looks like that expectation is justified with the Lions sitting comfortably in the play-offs, although a heavy defeat away to Peterborough a couple of weeks ago suggests that this isn’t a team without glaring weaknesses.
Last season, the goals of Lee Gregory went a long way to turning around a sluggish start to the campaign. A combination of injury and rustiness has seen Gregory muster just one goal in four appearances this season and it’s been his veteran strike partner Steve Morison who’s moved into the limelight with four goals from six appearances, making him the league’s joint second-top scorer. In terms of style, both are fairly archetypal lower league centre-forwards – very physical, very competitive and who come to life in the penalty area.
Millwall’s game-plan under Neil Harris is a fairly simple, but effective, 4-4-2 system based around winning physical battles over the pitch and getting crosses into the box. Ben Thompson in central midfield is a classic scrapper who loves to get stuck-in and be the pantomime villain for the opposing fans. Out wide, Harris prefers hard-working and energetic players who can get crosses in the box at every available opportunity in the form of David Worrall, Aiden O’Brien and Shane Ferguson.
While Millwall’s style of play is simple but effective, they can struggle against teams that play with pace and can get in between the lines of their formation. Their defence is made up of grizzled warriors with the giant Byron Webster and captain Tony Craig a formidable, but slow, partnership in the centre. However, with the impressive Jordan Archer in goal, it’s not as simple as beating Millwall’s defence for pace, we’re going to have to find quality with our finishing too.
Although I think Millwall are a fallible side, I just don’t think we have the weaponry to take advantage of their weaknesses. With a physically weak defence, we need to find quality in the final third to get anything out of this game, as well as almost every other game in this division, which I don’t think we have.
Millwall are clearly the stronger side, they’re playing at home and they’re in good form – we’re the exact opposite. There isn’t much else to consider before predicting a heavy defeat for us – 4-1 to Millwall.
Football Blogging Awards
If you enjoyed this preview, as well as all the other ones, the semi-regular features and the tri-annual publications that I produce, then it would be appreciated if you could show your thanks by voting for me as the Best Club Blog in the Football Blogging awards.
You vote on Twitter by clicking here
Or, you can vote online by clicking here