Yesterday saw a youthful Millwall side suffer their first defeat of pre-season, going down 2-0 to Conference National side Dover Athletic. In a side which saw only three players who played a part on Saturday – Onyedinma, Ferguson and Wylde – it was very much a chance for some of the younger players in the under 21s squad and trialist Harry Smith to prove their worth to manager Neil Harris.
Unfortunately, I don’t think any player left the game last night with glory. It was probably the worst performance from a Millwall side in a long while, I usually do player ratings after games, however to save giving everyone a 5 with the same summary, I feel a few points that were in my mind after the game might be better reading…
Ferguson wasted at full back
In obvious need of as much minutes as possible, Ferguson was included in the squad but played 60 minutes at left back before being replaced by Noah Chesmain. Saturday in his short spell at Crawley he managed two great assists playing further up the field, producing a great outlet on the left and a constant threat with his deliveries into the box.
Although full back is a position Ferguson knows well, I feel we benefit more as a team when Ferguson is on the wing. Pace and skill might not be what Ferguson produces as a winger, however the ability he has with his deliveries gets him out of trouble on many occasions. Strikers like Morison and Gregory instantly feel the need to get themselves in the box when Ferguson has the ball at his feet, we all know on every occasion Ferguson wants to get the ball out of his feet and provide another cross.
Wylde yet to impress
The jury is still out on Wylde, having played in all four games, starting 3 of the 4 we are yet to see the best of the winger. As I’ve said on each review of our pre-season games, its only pre-season and we should wait to judge Wylde until the real business gets underway. However, being a new player and having direct competition in the wide areas with both Ferguson and O’Brien capable of playing on the left, you’d think we would see a little more in these few games from Wylde.
What’s noticeable about Wylde is his pace when with the ball, but so far when in a position to cross, the delivery doesn’t always go as planned, often failing to beat the first man or being way over hit. I’m sure Wylde will be a success, although I get told I’m too optimistic even during the worst of times. I think playing at Dover is an indication he won’t be playing Saturday, therefore probably just out of the XI for the first game of the season, although as an impact sub, he could be a useful player.
Long ball… Long ball… Long ball!
Kids or not, yesterday was far from a promising performance from a young side. Starting in midfield we had Kris Twardek, Harry Donovan, Kyron Farrell and Gregg Wylde. All of the above have the ability to put a pass or two together, with Donovan having been with Arsenal as a kid. Instead, the instruction and first thought from all players at the back including keeper Tom King was to get the ball up field. As a result, with Jamie Philpot and Fred Onyedinma up front we failed to make the ball stick, giving it straight back to Dover, ready to attack at us again. We then also missed out on the impact of our midfield, who were just running around with nothing to do, with the phase of play missing them out.
I’m not sure whether this was deliberate from Harris going into the match, but due to the play on show I can’t recollect Dover’s keeper on the night making a single save for the home side. Okay, it’s a bunch of the under 21’s playing together, however we should be able to string together a few passes and keep the ball when playing against a team such as Dover. With no big man up top, it proved costly and proves how important a player such as Steve Morison is to our team.
Nelson needs a loan move
Another point that is obvious to all the fans, Sid Nelson needs a spell of consistent first team football. It’s quite obvious he won’t be a starter barring injury going into the new season, and as a result this continues to hurt the progress of a promising youngster who won fans over early in his career.
Not that Nelson played poorly yesterday, in fact the defender was probably the best Millwall player on the pitch as he also captained the side. Barking orders to the rest of the players, we know what influence he has on the pitch already, and it felt like Nelson coped with the opposition he was up against. Perhaps even dropping as low as the conference for half a year could benefit Nelson’s progress in the long run, because if we’re not careful we could quickly lose out on his progress, much like how John Marquis was developed.