You’ll have to excuse the smugness for just a moment, but I’m going to start this week’s blog with a large dollop of self-appreciation.
This season, my prediction powers seem to be at their strongest; I seem to have inadvertently taken on the role of Nostradamus at times.
From the return of a 4-4-2 formation bearing fruit in the way of goals (although I think anyone sensible could’ve predicted that one), to Jordan Archer’s rise to stardom, regular readers will know that I have had all bases covered. A Twitter follower and I backed Lee Gregory to score at least 15-20 goals this season last summer; whilst in my last blog, I asked for Steve Morison to get amongst the goals once more – he repaid me with three in two games, against Peterborough United and Doncaster Rovers.
Last weekend; I even went with Manchester City to beat Liverpool on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the Capital One Cup final – true story!
Anyway, that’s enough of that. What I’m saying is at times this season, things have been quite simple to predict. However; this March, the Lions face a month that could make or break their end of season chances of an instant return to the Championship – and it’s one that is almost impossible to predict.
The month began with an extraordinary goalless draw against fellow promotion hopefuls, Wigan Athletic, on Tuesday night and rolls on with tricky looking games against Swindon Town, Sheffield United, Bradford City and Burton Albion as the run-in nears. Apart from the visit of relegation threatened Blackpool this coming Saturday, every game this month will see Neil Harris’ side up against teams chasing automatic promotion or the play-offs.
On paper, April looks far easier. Next month begins with a trip to rock-bottom Colchester United, before matches against Shrewsbury Town, Fleetwood United and Oldham Athletic, with an away game at Coventry City providing the only difficulty – so I think it is fair to say that the club’s league position at the end of March will go a long way to deciding their end of season fate.
The Lions currently sit in fifth position in the League One table, three points behind rivals Gillingham in fourth, who seem to be stuttering at the wrong time in their pursuit of the top two. Despite their stumble, they still hold that gap – however, anyone present on Tuesday night will know that Millwall should be just one point behind the Medway club, not three.
Even before the fully justified sending off of Sam Morsy (Gary Caldwell, I’m talking to you), the Lions dominated their Lancashire opponents, defending from the front through Gregory and Morison, winning the ball in the middle of the park through the spectacular Ben Thompson and not allowing Wigan’s strikers a way through the back-line of Mark Beevers and Byron Webster.
But despite a monumental twenty shots on goal, some woeful finishing and an inspired Jussi Jääskeläinen – who rolled back the years with some important saves – meant that a frustrating night ended goalless.
Apart from that final percentage, Harris’ side turned in a performance of the highest quality – similar to the victory over Peterborough – and were desperately unlucky not to win the game with ease.
Whilst a minority booed the players at full-time (seriously cannot understand that), the majority accepted that despite the good performance, it just wasn’t to be. The application was there, as was the effort, the commitment and the desire, but it was one of those nights where the ball would not go in the net. I’m sure it would still be 0-0 if they were still playing now.
If the performance levels of the last two home games can be replicated for the remainder of the season and if the outstanding away form can continue, then there is no reason why the Lions cannot come through a tricky March smelling of roses, setting themselves up for a tilt at the play-offs, or more, in May.
I’ve stated previously why I believe it would be in the best interests of the club in the long-term to remain in League One for another year or two, but if the chance of promotion is presented at our feet, then we should attempt to grab it with both hands.
It may have already been a roller-coaster of a season, but one thing is for sure – the biggest twists and turns are yet to come.