Another must-win game that we’ve lost since Russell Slade took charge and it’s almost impossible not to foresee League Two on the horizon. Yet, there is the opportunity with a congested month of fixtures ahead to quickly turn things around, yet performances have been steadily getting worse under Slade since the 2-2 draw with Bolton at the start of last month.
Although we’ve somehow managed to hold onto all of our prized ‘assets’ over the January transfer window, the reinforcements brought in seem of a distinctly similar vintage to the loanees we let go. The signing of Michael Folivi as the transfer window closed on Tuesday evening felt like a repeat of the late signing of Andre Wright back in the summer, strongly intimating that things aren’t going to be much better over the next few months.
We head into a home game against a Millwall side who are almost the exact mirror opposite of ourselves. While we descend down the plug-hole with a team in no discernible form and all hope of owning our stadium lost, Millwall are on the rise, in red-hot form and have successfully campaigned to avoid a council-led death sentence. We have a load of weak, limp players devoid of confidence, Millwall are muscular and robust. Writing the rest of this preview almost feels redundant.
Somehow, Russell Slade has to raise the performance levels of this team, and having failed to bring in a target-man centre-forward, has to move away from the dunder-headed long-ball strategy he’s gone for over the past few games. Jordan Willis is unavailable for this game after his sending-off at Northampton last weekend, which should see Kevin Foley return to the side. Michael Folivi comes into contention after arriving this week, and he’s going to have to be some player to score goals in this team.
Last Time We Met
It’s worth pointing out that Millwall have failed to beat us since returning to League One at the start of last season, and have seemingly saved their poorer performances for those games. The 4-0 win in the second game of last season seems like a distant fever dream these days, as days a remarkable 2-1 victory last April that was swung by an idiotic red-card from Millwall’s Shaun Williams.
Our most recent meeting came in September when morale was similarly low on our end while Millwall had started the campaign slowly. A wonder-goal from Marvin Sordell in the first-half looked like setting us on the way to victory, only for Millwall to capitalise on a Jordan Turnbull error in the second-half to salvage a point.
How Are They Doing?
As mentioned earlier, Millwall are in sensational form at the moment, and are unbeaten in their past seven league games, having dumped Premier League Bournemouth and Watford during that same run. After a poor start to the season, Millwall look to be moving up through the gears as the season enters its crucial phase, and they’re likely to see an away trip to the bottom team in the division as a routine win.
The returns to fitness of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory in attack over the past few months has been a big reason behind Millwall’s rise up the division. The experienced Steve Morison is that target-man for Millwall’s direct style of play, his nous and physicality have been proven to trouble even Premier League standard defenders, so Nathan Clarke and Farrend Rawson are going to be in for a severe inspection of their credentials. Lee Gregory is a classic goal poacher who has developed a good understanding with Morison in reading his flick-ons to garner chances on goal.
It’s not only Morison and Gregory who give Millwall a cutting edge, Aiden O’Brien, who plays off the left-wing despite not really being a winger, has nine league goals to his name, thanks to his ability to read Morison’s flick-ons. The rapid Fred Onyedinma has finally carved out a starting spot in this Millwall side in recent weeks having played the role of promising youngster for almost too long, his runs down the wing provide Millwall boss Neil Harris with the ability to mix things up.
The impressive Jed Wallace has recently returned to Millwall on a loan deal from Wolves and, along with the deliveries of Shane Ferguson, offers Neil Harris further quality on the wings should plan A fail. Also in midfield, Ben Thompson’s running, and nasty streak, provides Millwall with their beating heart in the centre of the park, allowing the talented Shaun Williams to get on the ball and showcase his passing ability.
With Jordan Archer in goal, Millwall have one of the division’s best goalkeepers and Byron Webster at centre-back is one of the most dominant defenders at this level. Jake Cooper has arrived on loan from Reading recently and offers quality on the ball, along with his considerable six foot four stature. Shaun Cummings at right-back has returned recently from injury and has provided energy and experience to step-in for Mahlon Romeo who struggled to build on a promising end to last season.
Millwall are clearly the better team here in any way, shape or form you can imagine. It’s hard to see how what Russell Slade can do to avoid defeat here, not least because he seems to have made this team worse than they already were.
Millwall to win this game 3-0.