If anything, it’s worse to exit the League Cup after extra-time and penalties than it would be to have gone through the rigmarole of a routine defeat within 90 minutes. Pragmatism aside, it has to be taken as an encouraging sign that the team were able to equalise after going behind, being able to do that is the difference between a mediocre season and a good one.
It’s still early days though, any sign of how the season is going to possibly go is being preyed on and magnified beyond their true significance. We face another different test in this away trip to a physical and direct Millwall side who promise to be unrelenting in their pursuit of grabbing that first home league win having subjected their fans to a relegation season, and more recently a League Cup exit to lower league opposition.
It’s already pretty apparent that this is a team lacking in physicality, being led in attack by the impish Ruben Lameiras, James Maddison and Adam Armstrong. The restoration of the aforementioned Armstrong to the attack this weekend should provide us optimism of countering physical power with pace but after making a few headlines on his debut, the forward now faces the challenge of being a marked man.
With a somewhat experimental line-up being used for Tuesday night’s annual League Cup exit, Tony Mowbray is likely to revert to a line-up very similar to that used against Wigan last Saturday. That should mean starts for Armstrong as well as Lee Burge, Jordan Willis and Reda Johnson. The main selection issue will be whether to include Marcus Tudgay in the team after he grabbed a goal on Tuesday, especially as someone as delicate as Ruben Lameiras may struggle with the challenge of an afternoon at the Den.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Millwall came in that abject run of ‘winnable’ games that came at the end of our last spell in the Championship. Although hopes of survival had pretty much died with a 3-1 defeat to Bristol City a few weeks prior, this defeat provided what was pretty much the point of no return. Gary McSheffrey missed a penalty before Millwall scored the game’s only goal 10 minutes later as Andy Thorn’s Coventry City puffed around aimlessly for the rest of the game.
Just one year before, Andy Thorn oversaw a pretty comfortable Coventry City win over Millwall at the Ricoh during his caretaker spell at the club. Marlon King scored a brace either side of what was soon to be known as a classic Andros Townsend goal, cutting inside and firing from long range. The game was notable also for a crazy sending off for current Millwall manager Neil Harris, then in the final days of his playing career, just one minute after coming on as a substitute after an off-the-ball clash with Aron Gunnarsson.
How Are They Doing?
After a short spell at Southend, the previous mentioned Neil Harris returned to Millwall first as a coach and then as the manager in the final weeks of last season which saw Millwall relegated from the Championship. Harris has promised a throw-back to the traditional values of Millwall, which means that they are going to be physical, direct and generally quite nasty to play against. Already this season, they have been unapologetic with their direct approach to goal, although their midfield do end up seeing a lot of the ball from knock-downs as they then like to work some neat combinations down the flanks.
The front two for Millwall on Saturday are likely to be the physical duo of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory. Morison is in his third spell for the club and has already scored twice in his first two games this season. A key player during their last promotion season at this level and someone who recently played Premier League football, Morison is a hard-working forward who at this level pretty much guarantees goals. His partner Lee Gregory had a solid season last time out, notching nine goals during a relegation season that was also his first as a professional football after making the step up from non-league Halifax Town.
There is danger in midfield too with the impressive Fred Onyedinmna looking bright in the early weeks of the season. Onyedinma excelled in League Two with Wycombe last time out and has taken the step up in quality in his stride, playing a key role in last weekend’s win over Shrewsbury. A fast and skilfull winger who offers unpredictability with his running and can go down either flank with ease. Ex-Yeovil midfielder Ed Upson is the centre another one to watch, a keen competitor and a solid distributor of the ball who can get into the box, who could dominate the midfield in this game.
Millwall also have the threat of central midfielder Shaun Williams’ set-pieces, having demonstrated during his past spell with MK ‘Dons’ that he is one of the best in the Football League from dead balls. With a back four potentially made up of four big centre-backs in Sid Nelson, Byron Webster, Tony Craig and Mark Beevers, every ball into the box in this game offers the threat of a Millwall goal.
In contrast to Wigan last Saturday, Millwall have no delusions of grandeur about themselves and won’t be shy in asserting themselves or getting the ball into the box. This represents a whole different test of our credentials than what we have experienced prior to this. The main cause for optimism heading into this difficult game is that we have pace in attack that can exploit a potentially lumbering Millwall defence, especially as they are expected to be on the front foot in their first home league game of the season.
Having not seen us stand up to this kind of challenge yet, it’s hard to speculate on how we will cope with it. As we are still forming as a team at this stage of the season, I am predicting a 2-1 defeat.