Tuesday saw another poor, dull – I don’t even know what other words – performance from the players at The Den. The complete opposite to what we’ve seen on the road, where we’ve recorded five wins on the bounce, recording three clean sheets in a row away to Oxford, Walsall and Rochdale. So why can’t we carry these performances to The Den? A place where we’ve struggled for what seems like years and years, carrying on from even the time as Kenny Jackett as manager.
A side which has only lost four times away from home, taking an average of 1.88 points per game, scoring 1.88 and conceding only 1.19 goals a game, with a win percentage of 56%. These stats are remarkable, and comparable to our home form, you’d think that the above were our home form; actual home averages – 1.33 points per game, scoring 1.20 and conceding 1.40 per game, and a win ratio of 40%, each stat is worse on reflection to our away form.
Neil Harris has often mentioned we need to make The Den a fortress, and we need to be the assertive force in games and win the fans over. Having that expectancy is one thing, but the performances on show at home are far from that. The atmosphere at home is poor, away games are far more entertaining and enjoyable from a fans point of view, perhaps we don’t have the same level of expectancy away from home and any sort of positive result sends fans home happy. But every home game it just feels different, a small mistake brings moan and groans, these sort of thing are amplified when at The Den and it’s clear young players like Nelson enjoy playing away from home more to avoid the fans.
Perhaps there is an argument that our tactics lean to away games, where we seem to do well with sitting deep, and attacking directly to the likes of Gregory and Morison up top and making the ball stick. However at home games we are allowed more possession from the opposition, where we don’t seem to have the players in midfield who can dictate the play of the game, maybe a change of formation for home games could be beneficial? Players such as Jack Powell and Shaun Williams both seem to struggle in a 4-4-2 and perform better in a 3-man midfield, the kind of setup to dominate the ball and allow time to pick their passes. At the minute all we seem to be able to do at home is aim the ball towards Morison, and teams gather round Morison to win the second ball and come back at us.
Previous Millwall teams which have done well at The Den in my memory, are fast out of the block, putting pressure on the opposition which then brings the fans into the game. The year of promotion under Kenny Jackett, he cited throughout the season that 10,000 at The Den on-song were like 20-30,000 and a huge asset to his side. The same season we had only lost twice at The Den, carrying that form into the second half of the season and managed to kick on and chase for the top two.
I’m sure Harris is well aware of how to win the fans onside, someone who was part of many a successful Millwall team, but this seems like something which won’t change over night. Fans need to stick with the players in the same way as away games, which isn’t an easy request, however I’m sure we will see a huge response tomorrow afternoon come kick-off against Peterborough