Tuesday saw The Lions remain undefeated away from home, adding another point to the board with a draw away to fellow relegated side Wigan Athletic. Before the game travelling to Wigan if you offered a point I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in accepting such an offer, however the manner of the draw left a bitter taste, as we conceded the equaliser in the 2nd minute of 6 added on. Throughout the day I was surprisingly confident, considering that Wigan would like to have more of the ball and we saw the display on Saturday against Rochdale, it left me believing we could do another job against a possession based team. Any confidence I had was quickly taken away when the teams were announced an hour before kick off. As discussed in my last post, I anticipated a couple of changes with Upson coming in for Fred, however the other was Gregory coming in for man of the match Saturday Steve Morison. Nothing against Gregory, however my main issue at the time was the lack of a vocal point upfront, Saturday’s win was hugely assisted by the front play of Morison. He ran himself into the ground, and defended from the front, this was the argument put forward after the game from Harris on Tuesday, stating Morison didn’t feel 100%. While I can acknowledge he has started every league game this season, he is a key player in the style of play Harris wants the side to play, therefore taking him out of the team left Wigan with all the ball in the first half with no pressure up top from our front two of O’Brien and Gregory.
The subject of Lee Gregory is a tricky one, everyone wants him to do well, and he has been given the chance to stake a claim to be the goal scorer we so desperately need and want. However he hasn’t taken his chance, Harris has backed him throughout his spell as manager and publicly done so, I can agree he works hard but so does John Marquis, who is yet to get a league start this season. Yet to score in open play, I don’t believe Gregory is the answer to all our questions, perhaps he lacks confidence? But is it just me that thinks he is a yard off the pace? Tuesday night saw Gregory get battered and bruised through effort, but away from home and without the ball surely the alternative to Morison should have been John Marquis? Marquis gets a tonne of stick from a lot of fans, but Tuesday felt like the perfect game to give him a chance in the side and to see if he can lead the line in a league game, he done it for Gillingham last season, so why not for us? Playing without the ball, when you get it you need it to stick upfront, and we can’t expect Gregory to do this kind of job. I honestly believe Marquis would score more than Gregory if he had the same chances in the side so far this season, that’s my opinion of course, hence I write a blog about this kind of thing, I’m sure a lot of you will disagree! If so leave a comment why you think so?
Back to the game on Tuesday, and as mentioned above the first half was pretty lacklustre, which is what Harris would’ve hoped for. Despite having the majority of the ball Wigan couldn’t create an opening and left Jordan Archer in goal with little to do. We defended the box well, sitting on the 18 yard line with Beevers and Webster and both defended well together, signs of a partnership brewing for sure in the centre. We had a couple of half chances with Gregory and O’Brien going close, perhaps Gregory had the better chance however it was still difficult to convert. Playing O’Brien for the full 90 also shows the importance of him to the side, he didn’t look at his greatest and was someone I discussed as perhaps resting but his ability to carry the ball is second to none. He caused Wigan a couple of problems but aside from that looked like he could’ve done with sitting out and making an impact from the bench.
The second half began with the same pattern, except this time, an error from Shaun Williams gave Wigan the ball in our own half and before you know it Jacobs is through and converts the chance, guiding the ball past the out rushing Archer. A poor goal to giveaway considering we were solid until that point, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as Harris acted immediately with making two substitutions. On came Morison and Fred for Ferguson and Upson, both of the latter having quiet and ineffective games, but that’s to be expected when not having the ball for the duration of the game until that point. Both Fred and Morison however made instant impacts, with Morison being the nuisance you’d expect upfront the ball found its way to Williams, who made up for his error in the goal conceded with a brilliant pass into the feet of the on rushing Jimmy Abdou who almost managed to have two goals in two games, but for a last ditch tackle that fell to Fred who made no mistake from 6 yards out. A great goal that seemed to get the team going, minutes later a second arrived from a corner, Wigan failed to clear and with both Webster and Beevers causing problems it was eventually stabbed across the line from Beevers, scoring another goal to add to his tally this season. It felt like we had done enough to see the game through and record a smash and grab away win, however it wasn’t to be as Wigan got an equaliser in injury time through Will Grigg. Shows what you could get for 1 and a half million right? Coming off the bench and bagging a goal to rescue a point an maintain Wigan’s unbeaten home form, a point gained for Millwall? I think so, although we can say what could’ve been it shows how far we have come in the last 5 games, and credit is due to Harris and the squad.
As always, I like to give ratings out of 10 to each player along with a verdict to sum up their performances individually:
Archer – 5 – Will be disapointed for the equaliser in the last minute, as a keeper if you go to claim the ball out of the 6 yard box you have to get there, and it proved costly, as it always does when a keeper makes a mistake. However still happy with the progress of Archer in recent games, no one can fault him until this game.
Edwards – 5 – Maybe slightly harsh, but Edwards seems to have tailed off in his performances which he sets his own high standards for. A lot asked of him in a short space of time due to the injury Cummings has sustained, however with the latter now back in training perhaps with the JPT game and an international break, next week could be a chance to play Cummings and allow Edwards a break.
Webster – 6 – Another assured defensive performance from Webster, seems to have benefited with a run of games and a partnership with Beevers is there to be seen, be interesting to see how they deal with the threat of a pacy striker.
Beevers – 7 – Another goal from Beevers, clearly a threat going forward, and continues to keep Craig out of his favoured position in the heart of defence, deserves a lot of credit with rumours he could’ve left in the summer to return up north.
Craig – 5 – Solid defensively as you’d expect but nothing going forward, with Beevers keeping him out on the left I wonder whether we will see Joe Martin sooner rather than later?
Upson – 4 – Struggled to get into the game with Wigan dominating, when he did have the ball looked like he wasn’t entirely bothered either. Tricky situation for Harris with most agreeing Fred could do with a cameo role, but without Fred we miss his direct nature in attack.
Abdou – 6 – A self explanatory 6 out of 10 as we always expect from Jimmy Abdou.
Williams – 6 – Would’ve been a 5 but for his involvment in both goals, made amends for his mistake leading to Wigan’s first goal.
Ferguson – 5 – Similar to Upson failed to get involved in the game, however should keep his place if we lineup with Morison leading the line on Saturday.
O’Brien – 6 – Average performance from Aiden, sparks of brilliance coupled with tired passes on occasion, be interesting if he is selected on Saturday.
Gregory – 5 – Below average from Gregory, as mentioned it’s tough to expect him to lead the line away from home against a team that don’t give the ball away.
Morison – 6 – Nothing special but his introduction changed the game plan, added that presence up front that was desperately needed in the game, shows how crucial he is to the side.
Fred – 7 – Only way to prove anyone wrong is to score goals, took his chance and looked lively in a 4-3-3 formation, hopefully confidence booster for Saturday and a good performance around the corner for Fred.
Thompson – N/A – Brought on to see the game out but no impact on the game to determine a rating, hopefully see more of Thompson as the season goes on.
Did you watch the game or was at the beam-back? What ratings would you give to each player?