|Millwall 3 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 27th October 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Let’s Hope Ipswich Don’t Get a Dead Cat Bounce on Saturday - Notes for Millwall
Friday, 26th Oct 2018 11:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the Den by delving into their forums.
“Imagine going down and the absolute ball-ache of getting up again, surrounded by minnow clubs like Fleetwood”, “We’re a bottom-of-the-Championship, top-of-League-One side. Unless we get bigger investment into the squad we won’t improve much. We punched above our weight last year.”
The Lions head into Saturday’s game four points ahead of Town and 19th in the table. The mood has been lifted with two good home wins in their last three games, against Aston Villa before the recent international break and Wigan on Tuesday when they came from behind to score a late winner.
“With this squad we should be above mid-table by January if we play at last season’s level”, “After last season’s strong second half, we may have got overconfident for this season. It’s wrong to blame one injury and one player being sold for our poor start. All clubs have injuries and sell players.”
“How many times are we going to say that we played well but were unlucky? It’s complete rubbish, we are not good enough.” Fans were fearful when their poor start dragged them into the bottom three, and the thought of returning to League One after two seasons out filled many with dread.
“Like everyone else, I am desperate to stay in this division. The thought of playing the likes of Walsall and Wycombe again makes me shudder. Especially when next season we may get Newcastle United and Portsmouth added to fixture list”, “I have two words, just two words: Accrington Stanley.”
“We have always been unpredictable, losing to unfashionable clubs but beating big ones like Villa at home”, “I thought this league was going to be a step up this season, but there are some pretty awful teams in it”, “It just shows how bad you have to be to be bottom. There are teams worse than us.”
Neil ‘Bomber’ Harris
“Bomber is one of our own, and the longest serving manager in the Championship”, “He genuinely believes that we will be okay if we can eradicate individual errors and if the front players can take a few more chances. He thinks the squad is good enough, but I hope he will reconsider his thinking.”
The 41-year-old, who is Millwall’s all-time record goalscorer, replaced Ian Holloway in March 2015 as caretaker-manager with the club virtually relegated from the Championship. After taking on the role permanently, he then guided the Lions back up in his second full season in charge.
“There is no way Harris is going to follow supporter opinion.” Some fans have urged him to change formation or style of play after their poor start, but these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. “He has to show he can make his own decisions. Big Mick [McCarthy] used to do this, only to greater levels.”
Harris has kept the same team together as they have worked on improving their style of play and this has the backing of most Lions. “I have been going all my life to watch us and we will never be world-beaters. What do some want Harris to turn us into? The blue Brazil? It’s not going to happen.”
Getting Back to Last Year’s Style of Football
“I would have liked to see a new formation, but the whole club plays 4-4-2 and it won’t change. The way we play 4-4-2 is the thing that needs to change”, “Harris said in his post-Villa interview that we have gone back to the way we used to play last year, with two banks of four closing down quickly.”
“Last year we had two banks of four and everyone knew their jobs. We were as tight as anything. This season we have a free-for-all in midfield with limited discipline. The result is that we are like a sieve”, “Last season we squeezed opponents to death. Now they get ridiculous amounts of time.”
The injury and sold player mentioned in the introduction above are centre-half Shaun Hutchinson, who has just returned from a knee problem, and midfielder George Saville, who left for Middlesbrough in August. Harris has worked on re-establishing last year’s playing style despite the loss of these two players.
AmosRomeoMurray WallaceCooperMeredithJed WallaceLeonardWilliamsFergusonGregoryElliott
“A powerfully unattractive fixture, but often those are the ones that turn out the best.” The starting line-up (above) for Tuesday night’s fixture at home to Wigan was unchanged for the third successive game. This was no surprise for many with Harris trying to forge strong partnerships across the side.
“Last year we had the most clean sheets, this year the least. It’s a simple but telling fact”, “We’re not keeping any clean sheets with just one all season. Last year we weren’t that great in many games but we held firm and the clean sheet means that we could scrape wins. There is little of that this year.”
Keeper Ben Amos is seen as a competent replacement for the error-prone Jordan Archer. Many feel that the absence of centre-half Hutchinson with a knee injury has been a factor in their poor start. Jake Cooper is a set-piece threat, but he and Murray Wallace lack Hutchinson’s leadership.
“I really don’t think that Murray Wallace and Jake Cooper are a very solid centre-back pairing”, “Get Shaun Hutchinson back bloody quick.” Right-back Mahlon Romeo is a seen as good attacking outlet, in contrast to Conor McLaughlin and left-back James Meredith who are both seen as safer options.
“Our biggest problem is that we don’t have a midfield general, which is vital to a 4-4-2 formation”, “We need a ball-winning midfielder to dominate the centre of the pitch with our 4-4-2”, “We need some pace in the side, although Leonard has grown in each game while Williams has fallen away.”
For many Millwall supporters, the season will stand or fall on how well they have replaced midfield talisman Saville who moved to Boro in late August. Ryan Leonard was brought in as a replacement to partner the more creative Shaun Williams and is steadily growing into the role.
Jed Wallace played well against Wigan but has lacked consistency on the right wing, whereas Shane Ferguson’s crossing on the left has become an important weapon. Jiri Skalak’s crossing is also potent, but the regular appearances of striker Aiden O’Brien as a substitute out wide has frustrated fans.
“We are creating chances but not putting them away”, “We still don't have much of a clue what to do when we have the ball. We can't pass it quicker and we can only make 25 per cent of our crosses. We've had over 60 attempts the last three games, but we have scored from only three of them.”
O’Brien’s good finishing is cited as the reason for his late appearances. Lee Gregory is seen as the best all-round striker but his goal record is poor compared to his wider contribution. Tom Bradshaw is very much seen now as Gregory’s understudy and has primarily featured from the bench lately.
Tom Elliott is Gregory’s normal starting strike partner. Fans have praised his endeavour and aerial ability but have been irritated by his poor link-up play and his efforts hitting the woodwork. Veteran striker Steve Morison has been regularly used as a highly effective substitute to help see out games.
Millwall 2 – 1 Wigan
“A massive three points tonight and a great comeback from the abyss when that penalty was given for Wigan. Thankfully their player took one of the worst penalties I have seen since Chris Waddle’s World Cup 90 penalty against Ze Germans. A great comeback and I’m a very happy chappy tonight.”
“God, we made hard work of it.” Wigan went ahead when Jed Wallace conceded an own goal from a Latics freekick in first half stoppage time. They missed the chance to double their lead when Josh Windass blasted a penalty over the bar after James Vaughan was brought down by Mahlon Romeo.
The penalty miss was a turning point, as Lions were awarded a penalty of their own moments later which Williams scored, before substitute Morison won it with eight minutes to play. “At times there was, whisper it, joined up football”, “For once the fish and chips weren’t the highlight of the night.”
“The Den went nuts when we equalised and we started to turn the screw. We pressed and pressed and from the best move of the match scored a deserved winner”, “Our second goal was one of the best team goals I have seen for ages by us”, “Perhaps the season has started to turn in our favour.”
Reading 3 – 1 Millwall
“It’s going to be another rubbish Saturday night, but it didn’t have to be that way”, “We absolutely battered Reading. Last season we would have taken a 1-0 win, but this season we have little chance of that kind of result”, “We could have scored five goals today. Why does this keep happening?”
Yakou Meite headed Reading into the lead on 28, glancing in Tyler Blackett's near-post cross but Murray Wallace levelled for Millwall six minutes later. Sam Baldock restored Reading’s lead from the penalty spot just before half-time. Meite finally added a third, heading home on 86 from a corner.
“Well, what a frustrating day that was. We came out of the blocks and were all over them”, “How often are we going to say we played well but were unlucky? We had 27 shots and 12 on target. It’s complete rubbish, we’re not good enough”, “When will we get the goals our good play deserves?”
AmosRomeoMurray WallaceCooperMeredithJed WallaceLeonardWilliamsFergusonGregoryElliott
“Unchanged from Villa.” Harris stuck with the same side (above) that won before the international break. “Harris said in his post-Villa interview that we have gone back to the way we used to play last season with two banks of four closing down quickly”, “We should have taken a draw from that.”
Millwall 2 – 1 Aston Villa
“Our best performance this season”, “A great performance and a huge three points to get us back to winning ways at home. Villa looked low on spirit and not up for the fight. I was pleased in particular with how we were able to easily control the last 20 minutes and see the game out comfortably.”
Tammy Abraham gave Vila the perfect start on seven minutes, volleying home Conor Hourihane's freekick. Millwall hit back when Shane Ferguson fired home on 26, and Tom Elliott drilled in what proved to be the winner after 48 minutes when the visitors failed to deal with Ferguson’s cross.
“That was night and day compared to previous home games”, “We kept our momentum going and never looked like conceding late on, playing with passion and focus”, “Could Villa be the corner we have been trying to turn for the last few weeks? Let’s hope so”, “A real step in the right direction.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Ben Amos is a decent keeper and there’s nothing to suggest he should give way to Archer.” The 28-year-old loan signing from Bolton “has done okay. It’s the defence that has fallen apart. He has made consistently good saves all season. He dominates the six-yard box collecting crosses under pressure.”
Amos, Ben Charlton
“Amos has done well to keep the score down on several occasions”, “He has certainly commanded his area and looked more than adequate, making important one-v-one saves”, “We can’t expect to get results from the 50/50s that ensue when he hoofs the ball upfield, but he may be under orders.”
“Mahlon Romeo is always an attacking option.” The 23-year-old ex-Gillingham right-back “was one of the few players who really gave Reading problems as he bombed forward”, “He’s a Jaguar F-Type among Ford Fiestas. If any of our squad make it to the Premier League it will most probably be him.”
“Romeo’s weakness is that he’s mistake-prone, but watch how he plays along the flanks. He doesn’t whip in crosses, instead linking in small ways to move the ball up the pitch”, “The lad has a cool head on young shoulders. His positional sense is still poor, but his retention of the ball is second to none.”
“Conor McLaughlin can play simple, penetrating football.” The 27-year-old ex-Fleetwood right-back “is a good defensive option against teams who are strong down the flanks”, “He’s not an attacking outlet as his touch can be poor and his passing inconsistent”, “A composed and confident option.”
“James Meredith knows when to support and when to hold back.” The 30-year-old ex-Bradford left-back’s “reading of the game and positioning are generally sound”, “His positional play is exceptional. He gets tight to his winger, niggling him and dropping off when needed”, “He’s solid and energetic.”
“I cannot recall a more consistent player over the last 18 months than Meredith”, “I have yet to see him have a bad game for us”, “He spends most of his time simply defending, but he can’t cross a ball and ends up lumping the ball up field”, “He struggles when wingers like O’Brien fail to support him.”
“It’s good to see Byron Webster in the squad but he’s not near the level of Cooper or Hutchinson.” The 31-year-old former Yeovil centre-back “is a solid leader and a driving force but his distribution isn’t great”, “He puts his body on the line, makes crunching tackles with a never-say-die attitude.”
“I’m sorry, but Murray Wallace doesn’t look strike me as a second-tier defender. His lack of pace for this level is particularly alarming.” The 25-year-old June signing from Scunthorpe “struggles against quick players as a centre-half, lacking urgency and anticipation. I fret about him intercepting balls.”
“Murray’s ball control is poor”, “He’s a panic-merchant who gives me a heart attack every time”, “He puts in some good challenges and looks strong. He can be flat-footed and gets caught out bringing the ball out from the back”, “He has improved lately and could become an adequate replacement.”
“Cooper wins most things in the air, his headers have the power of a rocket.” The 23-year-old former Reading centre-half “is guilty of ball-watching and not marking his man”, “He is a good defender but he has one setting, lump a big diagonal ball”, “He boots the ball aimlessly if it is not hit diagonally.”
“The fact that Cooper is one of our top scorers tells its own story. You can see how defences worry about stopping him at attacking set pieces”, “He’s a lot more valuable in attack with his headers and knock-downs”, “He has missed his mate Hutchinson, they have formed a formidable partnership.”
“Hutchinson is the best centre-back in the Championship and the reason why we have conceded so many goals since his absence.” The 27-year-old ex-Fulham man “plays a superb sweeping role which none of the other defenders can. He reads the game much better than anyone else in the back four.”
Martyn Waghorn v Shaun Hutchinson (Millwall)
“I have lost count of the number of times Hutchinson tidied up for Cooper and got him out of jail last season”, “There’s no doubt we have missed him big time, maybe this is his moment”, “I didn’t realise we would struggle as we did without him”, “An outstanding defender who never looks threatened.”
“Jem Karacan can be an industrious little player who might be useful late in matches.” The 29-year-old ex-Bolton man was signed on a short-term deal in August as a free agent. “His biggest strength is spraying passes about from midfield. He has a good engine and covers well but lacks match fitness.”
“Ryan ‘Teacake’ Tunnicliffe is full of endeavour and trying to make things happen.” The 25-year-old ex-Fulham man and one-time Town loan signing “runs around purposefully but is often invisible. He rarely makes any defence-splitting passes or clever one-twos which put him into dangerous space.”
Tunnicliffe, Ryan A
“Teacake has his normal 100mph game with little positive impact”, “He does the dirty work, playing more defensively and breaking up play. He’s a solid hard-tackling midfielder who is an option at the end of a game to freshen legs or close it out”, “He has done okay but is not the answer at this level.”
“Ryan Leonard seems to be a steady Eddie who doesn’t do much wrong.” The 26-year-old arrived on loan from Sheffield United in August, the move being made permanent in January. “He has improved with each game and could be our next box-to-box midfielder”, “He’s our best signing this summer.”
“Leonard has improved game by game with crucial hard tackles that have changed our momentum. I can see him being a great favourite of the fans”, “He will hopefully become a quality replacement for Saville”, “He kept Villa’s John McGinn quiet all game so that everything went through Jack Grealish.”
“Williams reminds me of when I started men’s football. We had a brittle weak 35-year-old like him. Toughen up man.” The 31-year-old ex-Milton Keynes man “gets caught on the ball far too often”, “A class act but only when opponents stand off him. He needs far too much time to make decisions.”
“The best passer of the ball isn’t always the most athletic player”, “Give Williams time and space and he looks good but hassle him and he hasn’t got it”, “He’s composed and calm in the middle, pulling the strings, but needs other players to cover the ground that he doesn’t”, “A complete lightweight.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Jiri Skalak will never stop trying. His delivery from the wing is excellent.” The 26-year-old August acquisition from Brighton “is the best natural winger we currently have. He needs games as he is off the pace”, “He has put some crosses in that were better than anything we have seen all this season.”
“Skalak has shown enough to get a start. I feel a run of games will benefit his game and the team”, “He tries to mix up his crosses by drilling some in low and hard”, “He has shown glimpses of his class with his dangerous in-swinging crosses from the left. He needs game time as he is off the pace now.”
“Shane Ferguson has made the biggest impact and change to the team this season.” The 27-year-old ex-Newcastle left-sided player “is probably the best crosser of the ball at the club. I have never seen such urgency to whip a cross in from anyone. They occupy defences and keep them pinned back.”
“Ferguson tears down the wing to put in crosses to put fear in the heart of the entire defence”, “I’m at a loss to understand why we didn’t make use of his outstanding ability with our 4-4-2”, “He lacks the pace to catch the eye and he is more defensive-minded than most widemen in his general play.”
“Jed Wallace has pace and a threat. He can be a match winner.” The 24-year-old former Wolves right midfielder “has looked back to his old self, but after some great defensive play he kept giving the ball back to the opposition”, “He’s woefully out of form. I have lost count of how often he has done this.”
Armand Traore (Nottingham Forest) v Jed Wallace
“Jed isn’t a winger, simple as that”, “He has had too many losses of control. He rarely lifts his head to see what his options are, and he leaves his full-back badly exposed”, “I can’t fault his willingness to try, but one sign of a player out of form is constantly trying too hard and it not working out for him.”
“Aiden O’Brien’s goals are good but the problem is that he does not provide crosses or link-up assists when playing on the wing, which is needed with two strikers.” The 25-year-old youth product divides opinion. “His only salvation is that he scores goals, but even that threat has been reduced recently.”
“O’Brien has the knack of poaching a goal and that’s not to be sneered at, but the notion that he has blistering pace, great ball control, brilliant vision or the ability to cross a ball is total nonsense”, “He’s fairly notorious in the view of many for a reluctance to get stuck in, but he can score out of nothing.”
“Tom Bradshaw started at Forest [in a 2-2 draw at the start of October] and hardly touched the ball.” The 26-year-old arrived on loan from Barnsley in August in a deal which will see him be a permanent signing in January. “It’s early days, but he looks a worse player than Gregory and can’t get a game.”
Tom Bradshaw (Barnsley)
“Bradshaw may have been brought in as a replacement if we lose Gregory in January”, “He’s decent in the air, but needs to play alongside a proper target man, otherwise we need to dispense with long balls”, “He joined the club to score goals, but he doesn’t play as he’s too similar a player to Gregory.”
“What a goal to win the Wigan game. I’m buzzing for Steve Morison.” The 35-year-old former Leeds and Norwich man is primarily used as a bench option. “He’s a cool head who is capable of seeing the game out”, “A wily old soul who has more football brains than several of our players put together.”
“Morison is a tall striker who can head the ball”, “His coming on late in the Villa game to frustrate them was perfect”, “He managed the game, chased everything, bullied and brought something fresh for Villa to think about”, “He peeled off to find room in the box and finish brilliantly against Wigan.”
“Tom Elliott is coming into his own and playing well up front.” The 27-year-old ex-Wimbledon man “is a bit clumsy but he tries too hard if anything. He can score but his headers are often directed to nobody in the danger area”, “Our goal threat will often completely vanish when he is subbed off.”
“We must allow Elliott to have the odd bad game. He will cause problems, especially with Ferguson’s crossing”, “His shooting is abysmal. He’s good with his head but he has real Toblerone feet”, “What is it with him hitting the woodwork with headers? He wins many, but they are often directionless.”
“We all want Gregory to do well, but ultimately his job is to score goals.” The 30-year-old former FC Halifax Town striker “has incredible upper-body strength. He protects the ball, bringing others into the attack and feeling wide players His runs into the channels cause teams all kinds of problems.”
“Gregory’s ability to take balls on his chest and hold up play is quality. He is the patron saint of lost causes”, “For all his running and work-rate, he doesn’t score enough goals”, “He has to be greedier and shoot on sight rather than trying to play in others. He looks a little too uncertain in the box.”
Lions’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“We deserved three points against Wigan. More of the same against Ipswich on Saturday please”, “It is crucial that we build on tonight by beating Ipswich on Saturday rather than do the typical Millwall thing and **** it right up”, “Ipswich are dreadful and they can't buy a win so three points is a must.”
Fans watching Wednesday night’s game at Elland Road were not impressed by our display. “Ipswich are really poor and Leeds should be five up tonight. An easy three points on Saturday, thank you and goodnight”, “A positive attitude and solid defence against Ipswich will bring another three points.”
Some Lions are urging caution. “The team better not go out there thinking it's done and dusted. We have got to keep the ****ing defence tight and take the chances we create then yes, we should beat them. But you know what we are like, beat the better teams and then **** up against poor sides.”
“Let’s hope Saturday isn’t a dead cat bounce for Ipswich.” Yesterday’s news of Paul Hurst’s dismissal has not gone unnoticed. “It used to be that managers got the sack after playing Millwall, but now it seems with Steve Bruce at Villa and Paul Hurst at Ipswich that you get the elbow before you play us.”
“It’s anyone's guess how Ipswich will line up and play on Saturday. They made seven changes against Leeds and six changes for one of their previous games”, “They could be rubbish or we could put six past them and the size of [prospective new manager] Paul Lambert's task becomes apparent.”
“The worrying words in the article about Hurst’s sacking are that they hope to have another man in place in the next 24 to 48 hours. If they do have someone about to take over by Saturday, it is a sure thing that they will all be running around as if their lives depended upon it. That could be a concern.”
“Funny club are Ipswich Town, they’re a small town club that managed to enjoy an incredible period of success. Millwall got crowds of 30 to 40,000 in the inter-war period, but got nowhere and suffered in the post-war period just as Ipswich Town’s star started to rise.
“If Millwall had enjoyed Ipswich Town’s post-war to late 1970s success we would probably now be looking at being a solid top-flight club getting crowds of 30,000-plus now. Without the late, great Alf Ramsey they would probably have been a Championship/League One yo-yo side in today’s money.”
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Photo: Action Images
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