Tuesday night brought a second consecutive defeat on the road for Millwall, following on from last weeks loss up at Fleetwood. In fact, the game last night was a repeat of last week, going down 2-1 after surrendering a two goal lead, leaving a mountain for us to climb late on. Towards the end of the game we were great, but it was just wanting that final touch of class from one of your forwards to win the game. Before the game I was mentioning how in this sort of game you need your seasoned pro (Morison) to be counted and be the match winner. I’m not blaming yesterdays loss on Morison, but against a side right up the top, you want your big players to step up and be counted for, as Morison has done in the past.
An hour before kick off, the team news showed that Harris had elected to drop/rest top scorer Gregory, opting for O’Brien and Morison up top, with Onyedinma also floating around to make it a front three. Last Tuesday I was critical that not enough changes were made from our game against Colchester, and this time the changes were made, with Upson also coming out of the side despite playing well Saturday. However, despite these changes the performance early on last night was just as flat as the Fleetwood performance a week earlier, neither side were at their best, but a bit of quality for Burton in the final third was the ultimate decider of the match result. El Khayati, (don’t ask me how to pronounce that!) was the danger man for Burton, and was pointed out before the match also, having scored 8 goals this season from the wide position, he was a constant threat down the left, and probably too good for Burton and will move on to a higher level I’m sure. He was against Cummings at full back, although I felt it wasn’t Cummings’ worst performance for us, he was just up a handful of a player for the opposition.
The first goal for the home side came from a training routine set piece we failed to pick up, danger man mentioned above managed to beat Cummings, and was eventually brought down just outside of the box down the left by midfielder Saville. The set-piece caught Millwall out, played across the floor and was stroked into the back of the net, Archer got a hand to the effort, so will probably be disappointed to not tip it over but it was a difficult ask as it flew off the crossbar and into the net. For the first time in a long while, conceding the goal seemed to destroy the confidence in the side, and we just fell to pieces for their second goal. Coming from a corner of our own, Fred had a header cleared, and before you know it El Khayati was on the end of a counter attack for the home side to guide it past Archer in goal. I’m sure Harris will be disappointed to see the side fall to pieces in the manner it happened, it’s not been a trait of ours for much of the season, and to watch it play out was disappointing. With still time to play in the first half, Archer was called into two or three great saves to even keep us in the game, making point blank saves as the defence allowed Burton to keep creating chances.
The ref eventually ended the first half, with Harris I’m sure having a few words with his side at half time. He made two substitutions at the break, bringing on Gregory and Thompson, replacing Ferguson and Saville, with Saville still lucky to be on the pitch in the first half, committing a couple of fouls which were late tackles and probably a second yellow would’ve been justified. Ferguson was poor in the first half also, when we don’t have the ball he often goes missing in games, and at times when he has the ball at feet due to not being a tower he will often get shoved off the ball. Thompson coming on looked really solid in the middle of the park, using his energy to get himself about the park and he done his job well, perhaps a chance in the side on Saturday in the cup might be justified, with Saville also cup tied.
The second half as a whole was much better, while Gregory didn’t take the chance which fell to him, having him in the side offered the option to get in behind the Burton back four, and it caused lots of issues for their defence, just shows how crucial pace is in football. Fred on the right was a constant threat and despite taking numerous hits from the Burton full back, kept picking himself up and going again, beating his man time and time again, his end product might not be there yet, but the stick he has received from some is totally unjustified. At 19, he will make mistakes, as he is not the finished article, but with Fred in the side we play better going forward, due to his pace and skill on the ball. Our consolation came with 10 left on the clock, with Joe Martin grabbing his first Millwall goal, another set play, Martin found himself in the goal mouth and managed to tap it home. We then had a couple of chances before the end, with Gregory having the best chance, but having decided to cut and twist in the box his effort was cleared. In the build up to that chance, it seemed to every travelling fan that O’Brien was taken out in the box with the ball falling to Gregory, but the referee wasn’t interested in the claims.
I will attempt to mention the referee with out being biased, but what a terrible referee once again in our games, I mentioned the penalty appeal for O’Brien but also a number of other decisions just were crazy to everyone in the stadium, with even Burton fans questioning the referee’s display. Looking as a neutral, Saville was lucky to still be on the pitch, going in late while already on a yellow, Fred was on numerous occasions tackled late with nothing given. And the big call at the end, the decision to send off Mark Beevers for going in late on the goalkeeper, I felt it was a harsh decision, but maybe I would say that? It just seemed that Beevers had done nothing to earn the second booking, it means Webster will come straight back into the side along Nelson on Saturday, which will be an interesting game for sure.
Ultimately, the poor start cost us, a second defeat in a row on the road, it’s worth noting as long as we still pickup points at home we will be fine. Burton are now top of the league, so it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, but they weren’t the best side we have faced this season. I think that’s what leaves the sour taste, when the side is poor you question what if, because we have a team on their day more than capable of winning. Role on Saturday, Wycombe in the cup.