Saturday saw Millwall travel to The County Ground to face off against in-form Swindon Town. Having won their last four games in the league, scoring goals for fun it was always going to be an testing day for The Lions, but having not lost on the road since the 2nd of January, we as fans had a right to expect a positive result traveling to Swindon on Saturday. Backed by a large number of traveling supporters, it felt like an occasion where a Millwall side would turn-up and take all 3 points, sending the traveling fans home happy.
2pm brought the team news with the promise of an unchanged XI from our 3-0 win at home to struggling Blackpool, probably the best side available to us at the moment with suspension keeping left back Joe Martin away from the side. In Martin’s place for the last couple of games we’ve had the experienced head of Carlos Edwards, who despite picking up a knock and suffering injury last week managed to regain fitness to keep his position. Unfortunately for us, Edwards would go on to have a telling contribution to Swindon’s first goal in their comeback to claim a 2-2 draw. Elsewhere in defence we had the familiar partnership of Mark Beevers and Byron Webster, with Mahlon Romeo taking up the right back position. League One player of the month Jordan Archer kept his hands on the number one jersey in goal.
In midfield we had the combination of Ben Thompson and Jimmy Abdou, both willing runners and able to put themselves about in the centre of the park. Thompson in particular has been a great addition to the side in recent weeks, having to wait for his chance over the xmas period, he has fitted in seamlessly and both him and Abdou seemed to have formed an understanding so quickly. Keeping Williams out of the side isn’t an easy task, however you’d hope the experienced Williams will take note of the performances Thompson is putting in, instead of taking to Twitter to complain about the stick he is receiving from the stands. I would agree some of the stick is uncalled for and perhaps a level too far, but the adequate response from Williams would be to graft for the side and just show he cares, he will then quickly be forgiven instead of being used as a scapegoat. Shane Ferguson and Jed Wallace completed the four man midfield taking their usual positions on either flank, with Wallace as always looking dangerous on the right, perhaps not his greatest game in a Millwall shirt though.
Elsewhere we had the continued combination in the final third of Steve Morison and Lee Gregory, with both again netting as we claimed two goals in the first 11 minutes. The perfect start Neil Harris would’ve hoped for, as a short corner routine brought a far post tap-in and a 22nd goal of the season for Gregory, I don’t think we need to continually mention his improvement, but it’s refreshing to have a player in the side who contributes goals and only goals to the side. As mentioned above current captain Morison also got in on the action with a goal himself on 11 minutes, racing through following a poor clearance from the Swindon Town goalkeeper to make it three goals in his last three games. Despite being more of a provider for Gregory in his current role, the experienced front man has certainly stepped up his game in recent weeks adding crucial goals on a consistent basis.
Having managed to stay in control for the first 45 minutes, we thoroughly deserved our lead at the break keeping an in-form side quiet at home. I’m sure the message from Harris at half time would’ve been to see more of the same, and despite having a slow start to the second half it felt like we still had control of our own journey, expecting Swindon to throw everything at us in an attempt to get back in the game. The breakthrough came just after the hour mark, as mentioned above with 37 year old Edwards slow of the mark against the Swindon full back, having got into the box, the Swindon player was brought down by Edwards with the referee judging the challenge as a foul. Up stepped Swindon’s own form man Nicky Ajose to convert the penalty past Jordan Archer, despite guessing the right way Archer couldn’t quite keep the effort out.
From then on it was one way traffic all aimed at the Millwall goal, and despite keeping the chances down to a minimum with Archer having been tested from solely long range efforts, it felt like a second goal was only around the corner. Trying to bring fresh energy into the side during the closing stages Harris brought on Aiden O’Brien and Ed Upson for Lee Gregory and Carlos Edwards, bringing a re-shuffle placing Ferguson at left back and Upson just in front of the Northern Ireland man. Looking with hindsight, O’Brien felt like the wrong option, having only come into the game the forward looked lethargic, With O’Brien not having a run in the side for recent weeks you’d think he’d put more of a shift in to chase down the game and work from the front for the side and make an impression, I’m sure it’s something he would’ve done at the start of the season. Instead of O’Brien perhaps an option such as Jamie Philpot, a player in hot form for the under 21’s and looking to make an impression may have been the wiser choice.
The second finally came in what was the last meaningful attack of the game, having failed to clear a delivery into the box, Doughty was on hand to head home the equaliser and blow away our 2-0 lead, taking home a point instead of all three. Heart breaking stuff, and something we haven’t been used to seeing this season where we’ve normally been so good on the road killing games after taking the advantage. Next up, a big home clash, and probably the biggest game of the season at home to Sheffield United, with the lack of big sides in this division it was certainly a game I looked out for last June when the fixtures were released. Having brought our form away from home back to our home games, and I’m sure a larger crowd then in previous weeks, it’s setup to be a good occasion.