Despite the upturn in form at The Den, there’s one thing that Neil Harris’ Millwall side have yet to do – punish an opposition side.
That was, however, until last Saturday. Goals from Lee Gregory and Byron Webster, either side of a Shane Ferguson double, meant that the Lions eased to a 4-1 victory over a poor Colchester United.
They could have had more – they rarely broke out of second gear – but when you take into consideration games earlier in the season, such as Swindon Town or Doncaster Rovers, along with Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings in the capital from seasons gone by, where the away side has gone away with the three points by virtue of their only shot on goal, it was a joy to watch a Millwall side ease to a win, punishing a poor side’s defending in the process.
The quality of taking teams apart has been the only thing missing from the recent turnaround. In spite of going unbeaten at home since September 19, taking last weekend out of the equation, the Lions have failed to win convincingly – sometimes stumbling over the line when they should have been out of sight (Doncaster etc).
They will come up against better teams than the likes of Rovers, Swindon and Colchester – the next two league games (Bury and Burton Albion), for example – but the ability to beat the ‘lesser’ sides of the division will stand us in good stead, should we challenge at the right end of the table in the new year. With the likes of Crewe, Blackpool and Oldham (sides near the bottom) still to visit The Den, there will be three more chances – at the very least – for the Lions to assert their authority between now and May.
Elsewhere, the unbeaten run came to an end at Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night, as the former non-leaguers sealed a 2-1 victory that was far more comfortable than the score-line suggests.
Harris’ charges were off the boil as they suffered a first defeat in 10, but I personally don’t think there’s much to worry about.
The team have shown in recent weeks that they are more than capable of competing in this division and every successful side is entitled to an off night. With the recent fixture pile-up, tiredness and travelling could become a valid excuse, but Tuesday night will more than likely become a small blip on the path to prosperity. If that one defeat quickly becomes two, three and four defeats, then there will be an issue.
People have got carried away with the recent form, believing that the side is destined for promotion back to the Championship, but they have hopefully received a reality check this week. This is still a side at the very, very beginning of a re-build; they are not ready to compete in the league above without more experience and strengthening. It’s fantastic winning every week, but there will be blips along the way. They may also be where you least expect them.
One thing is for sure – Harris and his team will put the defeat behind them at once and move on to Saturday’s game with Bury. There is an immediate chance to get back on track with the next couple of league games, whilst there is also a chance to advance into the Third Round of the FA Cup, as well as the Area Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, should we beat Wycombe Wanderers and Southend United respectively.
Hopefully the Shakers will be next in line for some capital punishment.