It’s amazing what a couple of wins can do, isn’t it?
Before the international break, a last minute Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at The Den against Peterborough United aside, Neil Harris’ Lions had just the one win to their name – an opening day success at Shrewsbury Town.
Factor in four straight home defeats in league and cup and the mood among the Den faithful was one of doom and gloom.
However, since coming back from the break, the Lions have turned in two away performances of the highest quality, scoring five goals in two games, seeing off Crewe Alexandra (3-1) and Port Vale (2-0) in the space of three days, keeping their unbeaten away start to the season in tact in the process – quite the polar opposite from the home form.
In my last blog, I spoke about the need for Neil Harris to ‘find the right formula’ and that it would come in time. I also spoke of the need to shuffle the pack slightly up front, allowing the hungry Aiden O’Brien to replace Lee Gregory in the starting line-up, bringing the latter off of the bench when the Irishman started to tire.
Gregory has indeed appeared from the bench to effect in the last three games – he changed the game against Peterborough and netted a penalty in the win over Vale – but the emergence of O’Brien has proved to be a real asset in the armour of the Lions recently. At the back end of last season, the two began to form a real partnership up front – add in the ingredient of Steve Morison this season and if used right, the Lions have a real potent strike force for the first time in a few years.
Finding the right formula will take time. Harris may have played hundreds of games in the blue of Millwall and may be the all-time leading goal-scorer, but as far as his managerial career goes, he is a complete rookie. As I cannot stress enough, he isn’t going to get everything right at this moment in time. Just because we’ve won two games in a row, it doesn’t mean we’re heading straight back to the Championship; likewise, a few defeats in a row doesn’t mean we’re heading for the depths of League Two.
Nonetheless, after three straight victories, conceding just one goal (a complete fluke) in the process, confidence in the camp should be high going into the Saturday’s Den clash with Southend United. At this stage in the season, the league table is just about starting to take shape. With the division so tight – just five points separate the bottom four and the top six – it is imperative that the Lions get some more points on the board over the next couple of months, to ensure that a battle against the drop in the second half of the season is not needed and the club sit comfortably in mid-table.
In other news, two players deserve a mention, after coming in and changing the fortunes of the side. In goal, Jordan Archer has provided stability and quality, whilst the return of ‘The Fossil’, Carlos Edwards, to the starting line-up has shown what we have missed since his unfortunate injury one year ago.
David Forde has been an incredible servant to the Lions over the last few years, but in Archer, the Lions possess a real talent between the sticks. His youth and flexibility has kept Millwall in games recently – you have to believe that some of the saves he has pulled off would not have been stopped by his predecessor.
In just three games, Edwards has shown more attacking intent and defensive qualities than the underwhelming Shaun Cummings has shown in his entire Lions career. The Trinidad international has provided two assists (for the winner v Peterborough and for O’Brien’s first v Crewe) as well as stopping many attacks from the opposition dead in their tracks.
For a man of Edwards’ age to even attempt a comeback from such an injury is a incredible feat in itself; to get back playing first-team football is an even bigger feat. Having been involved in just three defeats in his Millwall career speaks volumes for his impact on the side, too – any chance you can play on for about another 40 years, Carlos?
With two home games on the horizon, the Lions now have a chance to really kick-start their season and currently possess something crucial – momentum.
As I keep stressing, stick with them. The tide could be turning.