As I get into the swing of my third season as Shoot’s Millwall writer, there’s one thing that I have been unable to blog about to date – a decent run at home.
Even in League One, the Den curse looks set to remain. Back in February, I revealed that the Lions had taken just 97 points out of a possible 258 at home in the last four seasons. Fast forward to now, add the games in between into the equation and the stats now say that since the wretched home form began, just 37% of the points on offer (105 out of 282) have been captured.
So, with what is quite possibly one of the worst prolonged records on a home ground in the country, fans are rightly aggrieved and wish to direct their anger in the direction of the club.
However, are some of us seeing red in the wrong way?
Millwall were never going to challenge at the top end of the league this season. I’ve said that from the start and quite frankly, if you genuinely ever believed that we would do so, you are slightly on the deluded side. After the mess that was left by Ian Holloway and the number of players released in the summer, this season is going to be no more than a year of letting the dust settle and cleaning up.
The response from some – predictably – to last nights defeat to Barnsley is slightly over the top. Millwall will not be going down to League Two this season, John Berylson isn’t out to ruin the club and Andy Ambler is just one member – albeit, the public face – of the board. Want to boycott? Bye. Unfortunately, whilst the internet is a wonderful place for people to air their views, it also gives the masses a chance to air theirs… I’ll let you finish that off.
Back on the subject of football, the Lions started off the season with a ground out and deserved win over Shrewsbury at Greenhous Meadow. On a tighter pitch (more of that in a bit), in the second half, Neil Harris’ side imposed themselves on their opponents, with the front two combining well, both getting on the score-sheet in the process.
However, it was back to The Den on Tuesday night and a Capital One Cup tie against Barnet; here is where the issues arose.
This season, the pitch has been made bigger by the management. It certainly shows. Every team that has played on it so far this campaign has enjoyed the luxury of the width, except one – Millwall.
To me, the pitch is causing a number of problems with our formation. Shaun Cummings, who, quite honestly, is awful, is caught out of position almost every time the ball comes near him, allowing wingers the freedom of South Bermondsey. Our wingers do not hug the touchline as much as they should, because they end up being too far away from the play.
The front two, who, as alluded to above, worked well at Shrewsbury, are playing too far apart and as a result, are unable to strike up a partnership. They have both created opportunities over the last few games, but cannot seem to be able to do it together. To create a partnership, Harris will have to stick with Gregory and Morison – Rome wasn’t built in a day – but without the new dimensions of the playing surface, they would be forced to play closer together.
Barnet, Coventry and Barnsley all used the width of the pitch and have all gone away with victories. It’s a decision that cannot be reversed, so if we want to start winning home games, I suggest we adapt, too – it is ours, after all.
The other burning issue among fans is the team selections. I confidently stated in pre-season that the Upson/Williams partnership in central midfield would be fruitful this season. As of yet, I have seen nothing to prove my point. With the arrival of Shane Ferguson and his dead-ball deliveries, is there a place in this team for the lackadaisical Williams?
I’d like to see Fred played through the middle, in place of Williams, with Paris Cowan-Hall and Lee Martin/Ferguson on the wings. Jimmy Abdou could perhaps play at the base of a diamond, allowing Fred to express himself more. However, I’m not the manager.
Finally, Jordan Archer should have taken his rightful place in goal against Coventry, after a scintillating performance against Barnet. I believe that we have had David Forde’s best years and he is now on the slide, but unfortunately, that ship looks to have sailed and Archer’s chance to shine looks to have dissolved.
The club is picking itself off of its knees. The season has only just begun. There’s time to put it right. Stick with them. Don’t oppose them when in a time when we’re needed more than ever.